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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

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REVIEW:  Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan

REVIEW: Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan

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Dear Ms. Milan:

I’ve had an odd pattern with the “Brothers Sinister” series — I’ve loved every other book. Which means three books I loved in one series — not a bad record at all. This novella falls in the “like” zone. Parts of it are delightful, but it never fully jelled for me.

It’s quite common for heroes of romance novels to declare that they like women, but Women’s Free Press columnist and Victorian feminist Stephen Shaugnessy — know for his “Ask a Man” column — means it more literally than most; he likes women for their minds and souls as well as their bodies. And he’s found a woman he likes very, very much indeed — his neighbor, Miss Rose Sweetly, who works as a computer. (Literally, someone who does computations.) Enchanted by her enthusiasm for mathematics and astronomy, Stephen arranges for Rose to tutor him as a means of spending private time with her. His motives aren’t fully formed, but they’re certainly not evil:

He wasn’t planning to seduce her, not really. It would be a terrible thing for a man like him to do to a woman in Miss Sweetly’s position, and he had a very firm rule that he did not do terrible things to people in general, and to women in particular. Liking a woman–even liking her very well–was more reason to adhere to the rule, not less.

Rose may be young and a genius, but she’s no fool. She knows Stephen’s reputation as a rake, and she knows the likely outcome for a black woman and shopkeeper’s daughter if she falls for his charm. And so she resists all of Stephen’s honest efforts to tell her how he feels.

‘If I ever have you in my bed, I want you to remember yourself. I like you. There’s no point having your body if you’re not included.’

‘This–talking to you, just like this–is already the point. I like you. I like talking to you. If you don’t like me, send me off.’

That is, she tries to resist it. But it’s hard to feel nothing for a very attractive man whose interest is so genuine.

He liked people. He liked her. She suspected he’d told her the simple truth: He wasn’t trying to seduce her.

He was just succeeding at it.

The novella is short, about 90 pages in epub, but there’s room for an important subplot about Rose’s sister, who’s close to giving birth and is being treated very badly by the racist white doctor attending her. This experience is pivotal for both Rose and Stephen.

Spoiler (spoiler): Show

It shows her how dependable he is, and shows him the validity of her fears. I’m a little dubious about the end of this episode; Rose reacts to the doctor with violence, which seems both out of character and dangerous. It failed for me as an empowering moment, because I thought she only get away with it because Stephen was there to back her up, and it made me frightened for her.

I enjoyed this story most at its serious points: when Stephen feels hurt and rejected — but never fails to be eloquent — and when Rose is struggling to help her sister, and to decide what’s right for her future. The parts that failed for me were the more light-hearted courtship scenes: for example, one in which Rose has Stephen calculate the odds that he would be able to seduce her, using factors like the probability that she would be hit on the head with an anvil. It’s clever and it’s cute, and I’m damming with faint praise there…. cute rarely works for me, especially in historicals, and the cleverness feels unnatural.

I also didn’t feel the love quite as much as I wanted to, perhaps because I’m not as enamored by discussions of math and astronomy as Stephen is. Or rather, the idea is that Stephen is generally entranced by Rose’s enthusiasm and brilliance, which is certainly believable… but I didn’t connect with his feelings. This is the same issue I had with The Countess Conspiracy: I’m supposed to love the hero for loving the heroine’s brains, but somehow I just didn’t.

But though it wasn’t a perfect book for me, there was much to enjoy. Both characters have interesting backgrounds, which leads to some powerful conversations as they really get to know each other. And there is definitely a sweetness to them. C+

Sincerely,

Willaful

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