REVIEW: Undressed by Kristina Cook
Dear Ms. Cook,
I know that authors usually have little control over their covers but I just have to mention the cover for Undressed since it’s so far off base. Way far. If I had just seen this book in a store, I would have immediately thought “contemporary screwball comedy.” If I’d bought it thinking that, I would have been stunned to find out it’s actually a Regency historical. What was the art department thinking here? Since people still seem to be buying Regency historicals, why on earth is this one disguised with a drawing of a cute little cartoon slip?
I was interested in this book for a number of reasons. The potential for conflicts was enormous, it had gotten a good review elsewhere and it wasn’t your basic English aristocrat spying for England story. The plot is that Brenna, the heroine, was stolen as a baby and raised by a Scottish couple. Twenty-six years later the truth comes out and Brenna is whisked away to London by her new found parents to be presented in Society. There Brenna meets with an old friend of her twin brother’s who has been publicly accused of cheating at cards. Colin is ruined in Society. He and Brenna are attracted to each other but her family disapproves of him and he doesn’t want to drag her name down for being seen in his company.
Brenna’s brother encourages her to allow his (obviously slimy, no good bastard) friend to court her. Brenna hates the friend who is the same man who Colin thinks set him up. Brenna’s father agrees to her marriage to the Slimeball. Brenna over hears something about her (also slimy) brother and his friend arranging Colin’s ruin and heads to tell Colin. They are caught in a compromising situation and forced to marry. The rest is Colin and Brenna finding their way to happiness past Colin’s drunkenness, his gambling away a Scottish property to someone who will clear it (a passionate pet peeve of Brenna’s), and Brenna’s self doubts.
My problems are 1) this is the third book in a series and I felt like there was a lot of backstory I didn’t know. Yes, I know part of this is my fault for not reading the first two books but I really felt lost. Some things are revealed by the end and there is one secret that I felt the book was stronger for not telling early on but I still had to stop to puzzle things out more than is good. 2) The whole lack of backstory about Brenna’s abduction. Why is this couple looking for a child, why do they steal this child (the daughter of an English Earl), why couldn’t they have just adopted a Scots child? Anyway maybe this was part of the first two books but it was never answered in *this* book.
3) There are tons of historical errors. Men speak in cant and swear in front of ladies, ladies use cant and vulgarisms, brandy is available but whiskey is what gets smuggled into England, Sassenach is used as a term by the English to denigrate the Scots, Colin (the son of a Viscount) is challenged to a duel by a barkeep over Colin’s attentions to the barkeep’s wife and I could go on and on. 4) The cover is ludicrous but I’ve already spoken about that. 5) The secondary characters are mainly black or white cardboard. The villains are so villainous I expect them to start swirling their black pencil mustaches before they tie Brenna to the railroad tracks. The vast majority of the English ton are portrayed nasty, evil, and/or stupid or they’re saintly.
6) Brenna and Colin, even though they’re the most well rounded characters in the book, swing back and forth like weather vanes throughout the story. Back and forth over the same emotional grounds through the whole story. Colin and his drinking problems could have been made interesting but instead we get a “final 30 pages” miraculous denouncing of his former ways. I wouldn’t have wanted him attending Regency AA meetings but some mention of his adjustment to a life of sobriety would have been nice. 7) The opportunity to delve into the interrupted relationship between Brenna and her long lost twin was wasted. Ditto that of Brenna and her parents. Instead we get two dimensional, stock conflicts that don’t go far beyond the conventional.
Alas, the good parts of this story were more than canceled out by the bad ones. I’ve got the feeling that there is at least one more story due in this series but I doubt I’ll try it. C- for you.