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REVIEW: Beguiled by Paisley Smith

Dear Ms. Smith,

Thanks for submitting your work to Dear Author.   I'd intended to buy this one because the cover is lovely and I was intrigued by the blurb.   Cross-dressing heroines are a favorite of mine, followed closely by nursemaid heroines, and this story has both!   Even the title, Beguiled, gives off good vibes.   Isn't there a spooky Clint Eastwood movie by that name?

Beguiled by Paisley SmithI really wanted to like this book, but I wasn't impressed by the first few pages.   I gave up shortly after, so this isn't a traditional review of the story, plot, or characterization.   It's a quick critique of the stumbling blocks I encountered.

In the opening scene, the heroine, Belle (as in Southern belle) is standing on her front porch, facing a troop of marauding Yankees.   Her little brother shoots and kills one of the soldiers from an upstairs window and Belle's father takes responsibility for the crime.   Belle is horrified:

They intended to hang my pa! This couldn't be happening.

But it was. I couldn't tear my gaze from it any more than I could have ripped my gaze from the face of a corpse at a wake. I felt as if I were somehow standing outside my body, watching instead of experiencing, observing as if it were happening to somebody else.

Like Belle, I felt removed from the action.   I think there were too many filter words like "thought" and "felt," which can create distance.   There's a great article on this at Let the Words Flow.   Belle is screaming and pleading for her father's life, but I wasn't moved because the writing style didn't draw me in.   The "telling" internal dialogue slowed the pace, giving the scene a lackluster quality.

I also noticed a lot of repetition.   In the above snippet, the word gaze is used twice in the same sentence.   Belle gazes two more times in the first three pages.   She also burns two stares, glares, gets eyed, meets each pair of eyes, and watches her father hang before her eyes.   The focus on blazing eyeballs, while common in romance, stuck out to me as excessive.

I skipped ahead a few pages to the scene in which Belle meets Alice.   The Yankees had left an unconscious soldier on Belle's doorstep.   Alice wakes up later and introduces herself as a woman.   There is no confusion, no tension, no gradual discovery of her feminine identity.

When I read about a cross-dressing heroine in m/f romance, I look forward to the hero being perplexed or in denial about his attraction to a beautiful young "man."   I picked up Beguiled with interest, wondering how this dynamic would play out between two women.   Unfortunately, the early reveal gives Belle no opportunity to interact with Alice in disguise, so the concept seemed underexplored.   DNF.

Best regards,

Jill

Book Link | Kindle | Loose Id

Guest Reviewer

5 Comments

  1. Cathy in AK
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 00:21:44

    Jill, I can’t say I disagree with your take of the first pages, because I was feeling somewhat similar when I started “Beguiled.” Belle did not react as I would have expected, under the circumstances. I was a bit surprised that Alice didn’t continue her ruse as a male, but since her company already knew she was a woman she had no reason to hide it from Belle. That would have been interesting, as you said, but I didn’t have an issue with it.

    Since it wasn’t a very long book, I didn’t expect intricate or multiple plot lines, but I would have liked more of the women overcoming their inherent ideologies or something to up the conflict rather than have them almost immediately fall into a relationship. But it *is* a pretty short erotic story, so certain aspects take precedence : )

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  2. Jill Sorenson
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 09:45:17

    @Cathy in AK: Thanks for your comment. My impression from glancing at the review at LVLM is that other readers really enjoyed this one, so I hoped someone would come to disagree with me! :) Smith is known for writing steamy scenes, so perhaps those are the aspects that took precedence. And they should, in an erotic novella. Unfortunately I couldn’t get past the weak start to find out.

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  3. Paisely Smith
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 10:16:34

    I don’t recall sending you the book for review. Perhaps the publisher did so. I’m sorry you didn’t find Beguiled compelling enough to read past the first few pages.

    If your readers are interested in a more in depth review, check out – http://bi-curious-romancenovel-chat.blogspot.com/2010/11/beguiled-by-paisley-smith.html

    ReplyReply

  4. Jill Sorenson
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 11:04:36

    @Paisely Smith: Yes, it was the publisher who sent a review copy. Thanks for the link to the other review.

    ReplyReply

  5. Jaidalyn McKynziee Hobbs
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 19:36:37

    I know some 1 named Belle

    ReplyReply

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