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REVIEW:  The Governess Club: Sara by Ellie Macdonald

REVIEW: The Governess Club: Sara by Ellie Macdonald

The Governess Club: Sara

Dear Ms. Macdonald,

To be honest, I found your story by happenstance on Amazon and investigated further because I really like yellow dresses. Great cover you have there. Still, many gorgeous covers have masked terrible insides, so I never buy a book on Amazon without reading an excerpt. I clicked the ‘Look inside!’ option to perform my due diligence. Just like that, you stole my free time.

Within paragraphs, I was voicing the words out loud, as I often do when no one else is home, unless I’m possessed with a particularly low level of shame (which is usually) and people are in my home and I do it anyway, because I love me and they love me and they have to put up with me.

In any case, I’m one of those who enjoys acting out the characters as she reads them. It’s more fun. But it doesn’t always work, because the dialogue has to be right and the physical and emotional descriptions have to be on target for me to be satisfied. I don’t want to act out bad dialogue (unless it’s very bad, in which case, sign me right up).

It was a pleasure to see such efficient syntax. That might sound like a boring compliment to most, but I’m an editor and I think you’ll understand. Most people don’t even realize it’s happening: the absence of clutter. Without the clutter, every word can strike the reader. Again, I’m not just talking about the mind. I mean everything. A story is not just a story. In the right hands, it’s a full-body experience. I think you have the right hands.

You gave me a complete character with baggage and virtues, all in the length of an Amazon excerpt. I promptly hit the ‘Buy now with 1-Click’ option, and here we are. Only 99 cents? Pfffft.

It was my first time reading a book of yours, and this was apparently the third in the series, so I didn’t actually know what the Governess Club was. I caught on okay, but at times it referenced too much to other plots or characters of which/whom I had zero knowledge. Still, the main characters made up for the mild confusion.

Sara was so gentle and selfless; so reluctant to treat herself or stand up for herself. She was vulnerable—enormously so—but not in an annoying way, which is a tricky balance. I wanted to take her hand and encourage her. I wanted her to know she could be happy and live a better life. I was pleased that Sara came to the same conclusion without much delay.

And then we have Nathan Grant. So unfit for company. So furious at the world and filled with misanthropy. It’s a problematic trope, because in the wrong hands, this is an instant cliche. But I found myself waiting for every word he said, every sneer, every caustic laugh he made through his hatred of people and of himself.

I understood why he left London and politics, and enjoyed that you didn’t rely solely on external means. It wasn’t any failure of his in the political arena that prompted his escape just before the novel’s start. No, it was instead highly internal: a personal disgust of how the people around him acted and manipulated. That disgust turned to self-doubt for his own identity, since he felt like one of them. You took the actions of someone else and brought it all inward, making the hero question the way he lived his life and the sort of man he thought he was. He didn’t know what kind of man he wanted to be; he just knew the kind he couldn’t be anymore.

It was the same dilemma our heroine experienced, except they had wildly different personalities and goals. But they were both trying to figure out what their actions said about themselves as people. They both found themselves lacking and they both wanted to change that. It was harder to figure out how to accomplish that.

I could see, absolutely see the cogs whirling in Sara’s brain as she realized the way she lived her life wasn’t right. It wasn’t what she deserved. The Sara she knew as herself was in conflict with the Sara everyone else saw. Even her dearest friends thought of her as some other, milder, simpler creature. That realization was painful. It was a breakthrough that necessitated change through action, and there we have our plot.

He turned and looked at her, his face unreadable. “You haven’t thought this through.”
“That is likely.”
“You will be ruined.”
“Only if people find out. As you just admitted to a distaste for marriage, I assume you will wish for discretion as well.”
“What about your vicar?”
She swallowed. “We will not speak of him.”
“This will change your life.”
“Isn’t that the point of adventure?”

In Nathan, she found a supporter like she’d never had before. Everyone else tried to help her gain confidence, but they went about it the wrong way, because they didn’t understand her enough. He succeeded in aiding her transformation. He insisted she be the strongest version of herself. To be the Sara he saw; a different woman than everyone else saw, including herself.

“As soon as I offered you some sort of challenge, you backed down. This is your adventure. You came to my house and stood up to me then; if you had not, we would not be here. If this is going to work, you must be able to stand up to me. If you do not, it is no longer your adventure.”

One of the most pleasurable things in a romance novel is watching and expecting the interactions. The first time, the second time, the third, and how everything is tweaked from encounter to encounter. Seeing their perceptions of each other change. Thinking, “Oh, he is going to fall for her so damned hard; I can already see it.” “She’s talking differently. She’s making different choices. He is her personal witness to this transformation.” “They are so right for each other.”

My one major hangup is that they fell in love too fast for my taste. It was way too convenient and pressed for time. I don’t think they experienced enough together to make the claim of love credible. I so nearly believed it. I really wanted to.

Another issue I had was a misunderstanding involved in the last act, where the vicar was just ridiculous and no one spoke up and everyone just denied, denied, denied. No, thank you. The tension was too manufactured and dissipated all too quickly once actual communication happened.

Still, I will be sure to search out your other stories and read them. I had an great time and I look forward to more.

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REVIEW:  The Weaver Takes a Wife by Sheri Cobb South

REVIEW: The Weaver Takes a Wife by Sheri Cobb South

The-weaver-takes-a-wife

Beautiful, haughty Lady Helen Radney is the daughter of a duke who has gambled away his fortune. The duke’s plan is to marry her off to recoup his losses, but the only one interested in this sharp-tongued lady is Mr. Ethan Brundy. Once a workhouse orphan, Brundy is now the owner of a Lancashire textile mill, a very rich man–and smitten with Helen.

Dear Ms. Cobb South,

I vividly remember when I first heard about this book. Back then, I was a faithful visitor to AAR and closely perused their DIK list in my quest to expand my romance reading lists. After reading their review, I immediately added “The Weaver Takes a Wife” to my handwritten TBB list and began searching for it in local stores. I searched high and I searched low. I went through new book stores and used book stores and finally had to order it. But oh, when I finally got my hands on it, I fell in love with Ethan Brundy and his ‘elen. Now newcomers to the series can buy the ebook with a few mouse clicks – lucky devils.

The book might be a touch of Almackistan but not by much. Indeed, it still sticks to the conventions of the genre while at the same time turning them on their heads. It has a non-Duke hero with a lower class accent but manages to include a trip to Almacks. The hero is finally dandified in a form fitting evening coat but it’s not from Weston. The aristocratic heroine might have her nose in the air but she ultimately falls in love with her workhouse brat husband. It is an homage to La Heyer yet carves out a new niche in Regency romance.

Ethan is such a wonderful hero. He’s unfailingly cheerful, mostly happy with his lot in life, aware that things could be so much worse and willing to help those he can. He also seems to be a shrewd businessman, an excellent judge of character and a true romantic. His friends in the ton adore him, including his friend’s lady love who is willing to teach him how to waltz so he can dance with his wife. He makes people want to do better and also pricks the conscience of those in a position to help craft new laws for the poor and working class. And Ethan even helps his friend come to the sticking point with his own romance.

He initially lets drop how much he values ‘elen in terms she’d understand – to the tune of £75,000 – but later reveals his heart when asked why no woman in Lancashire had snatched him up and he’d moved to London – because that’s where ‘elen was. Ethan, more than most men, is aware that nothing worth having is easily obtained so he’s ready to put in the work to win ‘elen’s ‘eart.

“What could one do with a man who merely smiled at one in a way that made one feel suddenly hot and cold all at the same time?”

He astounds ‘elen by simply not recognizing his inferior status. Ah, but she has to learn that this is because he never feels about himself that way except where her love might be concerned.

Mr Brundy might be a man of low birth but he’s also a man of the highest integrity, resourcefullness and determination. He gently waits for his wife’s regard, all the while showing her his worth by his actions as well as his words. Indeed, bit by bit, day by day, gesture and deed by gesture and deed, he shows up almost everyone who would dismiss him as merely a workhouse brat.

Folks this is unconditional love. Does ‘elen deserve it? Frankly early on in the marriage, I wanted to shake her. However one can’t stay too mad at her since she’s probably never known a man as wonderful as Ethan – though her brother shows signs of being salvageable.

‘elen’s changing opinion comes slowly but so clearly – to us and to Ethan – that her brusqueness is easy to bear because we all know she’s falling in love with her besotted husband. She worries about the Luddites and defends him against her former beau Waverly’s sneering.

She discovers she likes the look of his face when it’s not hidden behind an epergne. She sees how his workers adore him and why and strives to present him in London to them in the best light possible. She sees he’s kind to children in a way she and her brother never experienced while growing up. She mourns a honeymoon trip to Brighton because she worries about Ethan thinking she’s using him to help her brother then finally thrills to his KISA rescue. By book’s end, she has realized, and happily admits, that he’s the finest true gentleman she’s ever known.

I love this book because it not only tells me about all the characters but it shows me all their flaws, foibles and strengths. It’s storytelling in action, it’s alive with movement rather than feeling static. It’s funny (watch for the hilarious below stairs view of the marriage through the morning reports of upstairs maid Sukey to the housekeeper Mrs.Givens) as well as heartfelt and by the time ‘elen decides she’d rather not wait the full six months (you’ll see what I mean), I’m bursting with happiness for them and the love they’ve found.

I adored this book 15 years ago and after a blissful reread, I can say that it’s just as good the second time around. A

~Jayne

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