Dear Ms. Maclean:
Technically this story was well written. It’s polished and readable. It’s one of those stories I felt like I should like but for some reason I never felt connected or engaged with the characters. The opening is cute. Evelyn accompanies her reckless girlfriend into the boy’s dorm only to find the objection of her girlfriend’s attention, Lord Martin Langdon, tupping a village girl. Evelyn and Martin have a history together that neither acknowledge. Martin actually saved Evelyn’s life and he is irked she never remembers. Evelyn is irked that Martin doesn’t remember. Unfortunately, this connection which seemed so important in the 30 or so pages never comes around again.
The setting is 1881 and primarily takes place around Cowes week. Cowes week is a week of yacht racing for only the most privileged. As you describe it, it is “one of the most fashionable social occasions of the year”.
Evelyn Wheaton, a very wealthy widow, is present at Cowes week looking for a husband. She has been lonely and longs for a family. The current winning suitor is the Earl of Breckinridge. He’s from a good family. He’s got the big shiny nice title. He seems like a courteous man and a good match.
Lord Martin Langdon is a man devoted to frivolity. After suffering a terrible loss in America, Martin returned home and began a reckless existence living life from frivolous moment to frivolous moment. He’s won Cowes three years in a row but has a reputation for ruining his boats, despite being a dedicated sailor who loves boats.
I think that the progression from lonely widow wanting marriage to lascivious widow engaging in an affair combined with Martin’s quick turn about from being a wastrel who cared for nothing to being in love with Evelyn was too summarily done. Evelyn goes from being plain to being beautiful. I wanted to see the progression. I wanted to see more about the lushness of this time period. The excessiveness of the people. A greater description of the pomp and circumstance.
For some reason, I always felt like I was sitting in the nosebleed seats watching the action afar, instead of being immersed inside the book. Part of it was the lack of conflict early on with a forced conflict, the villianization of Breckinridge, and separation at the end. Part of it was the shorthand techniques employed to describe things:
- Cowes was “one of the most fashionable social occasions of the year.” how so? or
- “the boat tipped at an impossible angle” why?
- “I do beg your pardon,” she said, softening her tone and clearing her throat. “That was most ill-mannered of me.”
The marchioness spoke matter-of-factly. “You needn’t apologize to us, Mrs. Wheaton. We’re American.”
It just didn’t work for me. C.