Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

historical romance

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.

AmazonBNKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

REVIEW:  The Accidental Abduction by Darcie Wilde

REVIEW: The Accidental Abduction by Darcie Wilde

Elaina started reading romances in high school, but only started telling people she read romances within the last few years. Historicals will always remain her favorite, although she finds herself reading other genres depending on her mood. Favorite authors include Elizabeth Hoyt, Lisa Kleypas, Tessa Dare and Meredith Duran. She’s always on the hunt for innovative historical romances—especially non-Regency historicals—so drop her a line if you have a recommendation.

 

Accidental Abduction Darcie Wilde

Dear Ms. Wilde:

I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect with your novel An Accidental Abduction. All I knew was that it was a historical by an unknown-to-me author. When I realized that this historical contains both a working class hero and heroine, I was so excited. How often do you get to read about merchant heroes? Rarely, if ever. I’m so tired of rakish dukes that anything slightly different will pique my interest.

The story begins with, well, an abduction of sorts: when Leannah Wakefield (I have a difficult time imagining Leannah a common name in the 19th century, I must admit) discovers her younger sister has eloped, she drives off in a mad dash to catch her. When Harry Rayburn sees a carriage hurtling down the street, he thinks the driver has lost control of her team and attempts to stop the carriage. What results is Harry being dragged along on Leannah’s errand, an accidental abduction of sorts.

Leannah and Harry experience instant attraction to one another as their road-trip continues. Leannah, a widow of one year, never experienced a satisfying sexual relationship with her much older husband, and she finds herself attracted to Harry from the outset. I really appreciated this frank look at the heroine’s sexual desires that often are overlooked or coated with confusion as to what those feelings entail, when there is rarely such confusion in a hero’s sexual attraction to the heroine. Leannah knows she’s attracted to Harry and imagines having sex with him—a rather subversive touch to this romance that I really liked.

Harry, for his part, has recently been turned down by the woman he thought he would marry, and when he meets Leannah, he is similarly smitten and quickly forgets his almost-fiancée’s rejection. Harry comes from merchant stock, with gobs of money but not much in the way of blue blood. He is handsome—called an Adonis more than once—but also rendered human, too, with his overlong sideburns that he doesn’t realize aren’t particularly flattering.

It is this sexual attraction coupled with Leannah’s desire to avoid another unwanted marriage on the behest of her ill father that results in Harry and Leannah marrying only days after meeting. Their first sexual encounter is electric and yet both are full of doubts as to their hasty marriage. Combined with Leannah’s secrets regarding her family history and Harry’s family’s disapproval over his union, the two struggle to find their footing in a marriage that seems to be falling apart from the outset.

The first half of this book worked well for me, and I loved how Harry and Leannah fell for each other so quickly. Once the two are married, however, the book falls into frustrating Big Misunderstanding territory, that’s mostly caused by the lack of communication between Harry and Leannah. So many of their issues could have been solved by simply asking the other about the question or issue at hand. Instead, Harry—in particular—allows himself to believe what others tell him about Leannah without confronting her.

I also couldn’t figure out what, precisely, was the Big Secret of Leannah’s that causes Harry such alarm. Although it is revealed that Leannah’s father has had some shady dealings, there is nothing that Leannah herself has done. We also have a secret of Harry’s that is mentioned a few times in the first half but never discussed again in the second, which seemed a major oversight in the development of both his character and his relationship with Leannah.

The clunky-ness of the second half didn’t stop once we reached the very random ending that seemed thrown in there because you weren’t sure how to solve the problems of the characters. Instead, Leannah suffers a brutal accident that forces Harry to stop being angry with her, and this is coupled with the offstage defeat of the villains. Once we reach the very last chapter, I was not the least bit convinced that Harry and Leannah had solved their difficulties: instead, a near-death experience just put it on hold.

Overall, I really did enjoy your writing style and I’ll be on the lookout for more of your work. I wanted to like The Accidental Abduction more than I did, but it had some lovely moments to it despite the disintegrating second half.

Grade: C+

Elaina

AmazonBNKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle