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REVIEW: Veiled Promises by Tracy MacNish

Dear Mrs. Macnish,

Reviewers who have said your book “Veiled Promises” is a step back to the sweeping sagas of yesteryear with lovers who endure much to be together yet are separated for a lot of the book, but without the asshat hero, are correct. I can’t recall reading anything like this, at least that was written within the past 15 years, in a long time. But I do have to ask, did you hate your heroine? Were the trials and tribulations you put her through a cathartic exercise or therapeutic revenge on someone? Because I closed this book thinking to myself, “Sheesh, I’d hate to be one of her heroines.”

Camille Bradburn is a woman most people would think has it all. She’s young, beautiful, cultured, educated and the daughter of a Duke when that really meant something. But in reality, her life is hell on earth. Her father couldn’t care less about her and her mother is one bitch-ass, whack job. The FBI profilers would have a field day with this woman. Camille has been controlled, through beatings and deprivation, all her life. She yearns for freedom but knows she’ll never get it. Her life is preordained and her only hope of escape is through marriage which her mother will probably arrange.

Patrick Mullen is immediately captivated by this young woman. It’s her beauty which draws him first but he quickly realizes here is the woman he’s only dreamt of. As their love blossoms, he begins to think of forever. That is, until her sadistic mother learns of their plans to escape and intervenes. Now the two lovers must surmount untold obstacles and horrors in their quest for a HEA.

As I read this book, I couldn’t help comparing it to a soap opera. Like an 18th century “As the World Turns” it’s got just about everything except a character who returns from the dead and an evil twin. This is dark romance at its darkest and you single out Camille for the brunt of the abuse. Yes, the hero has some bad things happen to him but nothing like the whippings, lashings, rape, mental abuse and descent into a brandy bottle that awaits Camille. Halfway through the book, I felt like I needed to start Prozac.

I do give you credit for creating a consistent villain. Amelia is evil from beginning to end. Yet, I felt her reasons seemed to change as the book progressed. First she comes off as a religious fanatic, then her actions are because her mother beat her even worse and finally she hates Camille for being young and beautiful. And as for Bret, mother’s hand picked husband for Camille, I don’t care that in the end he was crippled with guilt. He did what he did and as Amelia said, no one could make him do that if he didn’t want to. He’s a loser bastard.

And I also had to think of the hero as a loser during his attempt to rescue Camille. After all the time he takes setting up their first attempt to leave, the second time he just appears, with no plan, no backup, no escape route or ship or horses or anything. He knows what her mother is capable of, sees Camille is as drunk as a skunk and still tries to get her out of the house. Then, when he’s caught, he acts surprised that Amelia’s going to have his ass thrown in jail. What the hell? Why does he completely lose all common sense?

And how does Patrick manage to wander all over a Ducal estate night after night? Where’s the nightwatchman? Where are the mastiff guard dogs? Why doesn’t anyone question why he’s still in town for a month and going out every night til all hours? And when in London, how can Camille wander through the stables so much and there be almost no servants there? How can her mother not see what’s going on or be told what’s going on for so long?

And as for Camille’s HEA. I just don’t see how this woman has much chance of happiness after all she goes through. I’m sure Patrick will try and make her happy but in the back of my mind, I keep thinking of Sybil and her 16 personalities.

From the reviews I’ve read of “Veiled Promises,” I know it’s working for a lot of people. I did enjoy your writing style and appreciate that you made your characters act like 18th century people. I just wish more of the book had worked for me than it did. C-

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

8 Comments

  1. Robin
    Sep 28, 2006 @ 17:28:49

    I haven’t read this one, but I really enjoyed your review, Jayne. I think there’s a huge difference between heroines who go through a lot and heroines whom the author seems to put through a lot. There’s a line across which it feel as if the author writing is actually debasing a character, and I think your review made that distinction really well. I know we’re not supposed to make what we might think of as the author’s intention paramount in our response to a novel, but there are just novels in which I feel like a certain character is being victimized by the book itself. And unfortunately, in Romance it too often seems like it’s the heroine. Why is that, I wonder?

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  2. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2006 @ 06:32:56

    Robin, I honestly don’t know why Mrs. MacNish put Camille through all that she did. Even from the first chapter of the book, it was made very clear that Camille had endured a lifetime of abuse and control at the hands of her mother. A few scenes to show me examples in the present would have been fine for me but the abuse/hardships continued throughout the whole book.

    Before I started the book, I tried to avoid reading the already posted reviews but once I had finished, I checked them out to see how well my grade correlated. Not too well, I must say. My feelings were closest to LLB’s note added to the end of the AAR review.

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  3. Tracy MacNish
    Sep 29, 2006 @ 09:24:31

    Jayne,
    Thanks for your candid, well-thought-out review.

    Normally I don’t respond to reviews, because I don’t like to wiegh in as the author and disrupt the discussion. But because you specifically wondered why the author would make certain choices for the characters, I hope you don’t mind that I am directly responding.

    Bascially, I wanted to turn the genre upside-down. I was tired of pampered heroines. If I read one more fiesty hoyden, I was afraid I would lose my love of the genre entirely, and perhaps my lunch with it.

    The hardships didn’t stop because in real life, often they don’t. I wanted it raw and real. Not some faux-problem for the heroine to overcome, but something enormous. I wanted a hero who was human enough to screw up and pay the price.

    I do admit that, as a first novel, it isn’t perfect. There are things in it I’d change if I could, and yet, I’m still proud of it because it is a bold book full of risks. My second book, Veiled Desires, is less dark and very romantic. While it’s still historically accurate, I think I struck more of a balance between writing a book that doesn’t shy away from truth while meeting more readers’ expectations. Perhaps that one will be more to your taste.

    Thanks again.
    -Tracy MacNish

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  4. Rosie
    Sep 29, 2006 @ 10:45:15

    I haven’t read the book, but I’m sort of curious about it now. I must say I’m very impressed with Ms. MacNish’s response to the review. She did a great job of explaining why she wrote the heroine as she did without sounding peevish, offended by your review, or defensive. For that alone I think I’ll try the book.

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  5. Robin
    Sep 29, 2006 @ 12:12:20

    Bascially, I wanted to turn the genre upside-down. I was tired of pampered heroines. If I read one more fiesty hoyden, I was afraid I would lose my love of the genre entirely, and perhaps my lunch with it.

    As a reader, I really appreciate an author’s desire to subvert some of the more tired aspects of the genre. I don’t really have any expectations regarding how dark or “historically accurate” a Romance can be — in fact, I am always on the look out for grittier Romance novels.

    Sometimes the old skool style books work really well for me, and sometimes they don’t, especially if the heroine’s happiness seems to be pulled out of a hat at the end to satisfy the whole HEA thing. Sometimes I really love what an author is doing with a character and sometimes I don’t. For example, reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess was a difficult experience, not because of all the tragedy that gets heaped on Tess, but because after a while I felt that Hardy was basically using her character to make a point about society and was as complicit in Tess’s downfall as Angel was, for example. Jayne’s description of the book reminded me somewhat of Patricia Gaffney’s Lily, NOT in the plot per se, but of that old skool heroine who had to journey to hell and back before she could find her happiness. But poor Lily; after a while, I felt like Gaffney was working off a list of the most melodramtic plot turns in the history of literature, or some such thing. On the other hand, I adored Gaffney’s To Have and To Hold because I felt that while she made Rachel suffer terribly, she also made her final happiness believable to me, which, in the end, is what usually works for me, especially if I feel an author isn’t just trying to manipulate me or pour on the melodrama for effect or see how far she can push things without the writerly tools to bring them back.

    Jayne’s review of your book interested me enough that I will likely pick it up. I just wanted to clarify that not all Romance readers want fluffy books, but speaking for myself, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a grittier book fails for me because it’s “too gritty.”

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  6. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2006 @ 15:13:10

    Rosie, based on the other reviews I’ve read and the comments at Amazon and B&N, I think I’ll be in the minority. I hope you enjoy the book. I was in Waldenbooks today and noticed that the sequel, Veiled Desires, is out on the shelves too.

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  7. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2006 @ 15:22:19

    Robin, I’ve been a banner waver for grittier books before. In fact, I get tired of those books where the author puts the heroine into “danger” time after time and somehow she always gets saved before anything truly bad happens to her. And I applaud the fact that Mrs. MacNish took some risks and wrote something different. The product as a whole just didn’t work for me.

    She has chapter one up at her website and as I said, I saw a copy in the bookstore today along with the sequel. Y’all check it out and let me know what you think of it.

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  8. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2006 @ 15:28:14

    Tracy, thanks for stopping by and discussing the motivations for your characters. I appreciate the opportunity to have read your book

    ReplyReply

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