#30 A Review of Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

I was recently afforded the opportunity of working with Juliet Archer.  We were fortunate enough to collaborate on The Austen Games together and have developed a nice little friendship driven by our love for Jane Austen! Juliet is the author of the Darcy and Friends series, which currently consists of two novels and is soon to be followed by more works.  The first in the series, The Importance of Being Emma, was well received and was soon followed by Persuade Me.  Both books have received several romance novel award nominations/wins, and after reading Persuade Me it’s easy to see why!

In a modern-day retelling of Persuasion, Archer introduces us to Anna Wentworth and Rick Wentworth.  Both met in France while Anna was an Au Pair and Rick taught sailing lessons.  The two immediately fall in love and have a fairy tale summer together.  Unfortunately events beyond their control forced them apart, as Anna left to go to school in England and Rick left to work in Australia.  For ten long years they lived apart, linked by the memory of that fateful summer in France.  Fate steps in again, when the two meet in England, where Anna lives as a University lecturer and Rick is passing through on a book tour in his career as a famous marine biologist.  They have both been harboring conflicting feelings about each other, and coming back together after all these years have brought these feelings back to the surface with a vengeance.  The two must decide how to best move forward, whether it be together or as separate people.  Which one will it be?

Whenever I read a novel that pays homage to Austen’s Persuasion, there’s one thing that always stands out to me as the make or break point: Wentworth’s letter.  It is hands down the best letter written in all of literature in my eyes.  Therefore, I’m always nervous that when I read a Persuasion influenced novel that it won’t live up to the expectations that I have.  I can tell you, my fellow readers, that Archer’s version of Wentworth’s letter is 100% swoon-worthy.  I fell in love with the story, the characters, and the comedic undertones of Archer’s writing all while greatly anticipating the moment I would reach “the letter”.  Archer’s novel reads like a fine red wine that has been left out to breathe.  It becomes fuller and more complex with time, adding to the reader’s pleasure and enjoyment.

Archer’s creativity and wit are clearly evident in the way in which she modernizes Austen’s story.  Frederick (now Rick) is now a marine biologist as opposed to being a naval officer, yet still gets to spend most of his time with his love, the sea.  Anne (now Anna), who I’ve always considered the smartest of all of Austen’s heroines, gets to showcase that intelligence with a Ph.D. in Russian literature.  The inclusion of discussions on Russian literature and the similarities between the plots of these novels and the plot of Persuasion has made me want to delve more into Russian literature in the future.  Overall, the entire novel was a very interesting and engaging read.  If you love Austen modernizations like I do and are in the mood for a new and fun spin on our favorite classic, definitely check out Persuade Me.  You won’t be disappointed!

4 out of 5 Stars

Persuade Me by Juliet Archer
Choc Lit Limited (2011)
Paperback: 386 pages
ISBN: 9781906931216

Special thanks to Juliet for sending me a review copy!

Note: This book is not available for fans in the US yet.  You CAN pre-order it though for its May 15th release date.  For those of you in the UK you’ll be happy to hear it’s already available for you!

#28 A Review of Compromising Kessen by Rachel Van Dyken

One would imagine that it would be difficult to be the offspring of nobility.  High expectations abound, and it’s all too clear in today’s society that this is the case, as power and prestige in our society equal more and more scrutiny with the advent of the internet and 24/7 news.  Therefore, imagine being the subject of this scrutiny as the daughter of a nobleman, and you too would want to get as far away from it as possible.

In Compromising Kessen we are introduced to Kessen Newberry, a hard-working, polite, kind, and all around nice girl who just happens to be the daughter of England’s Earl of Newberry.  Although she gets to fortunately avoid all of this British stuffiness by living in Colorado, she is inescapably called to spend a season in London by her father, which she begrudgingly accepts in order to hold her place in her father’s successful and profitable tea company.  Her mood is about to change however, as she meets a Mr. Christian Vandenbrook, who is not only devastatingly handsome, but incredibly arrogant as well.  A business partner of her father’s, Christian is also the future Duke of Albany.  After a nightmarish turn of events, Kessen and Christian find that they must marry in one week’s time after only knowing each other for not much longer than that.  This would be much easier for Kessen to accept but for the fact that many of Christian’s habits and mannerisms irritate her, especially his hatred of Americans (although she sometimes finds it amusing).  Regardless, despite their differences they decide to give the relationship a try (knowing it will be a good business venture), and must begin to learn about each other.  What they find will definitely surprise you, as the bickering soon turns to an undying affection against all odds.

Rachel Van Dyken has done it again!  She has pulled me in to a unique and fun story that had me intrigued from the very beginning.  I think her decision to create a fusion of modern, contemporary romance with historical romance was spot on.  It contained all of the old charm of a historical romance set in the framework of modern-day.  For example, Van Dyken created a series of very “modern” activities that Kessen and Christian completed with each other in order to get to know each other better.  These included paintball, a trivia contest, and even rock climbing.  This was definitely a fun and interesting twist in the story that kept the plot moving right along.

Perhaps my favorite part about the modern/historical romance fusion is the fact that social ques from the historical fiction genre definitely made their way into the modern romance context.  One prime example of this was when Kessen and Christian were caught kissing in the garden by the paparazzi.  Obviously if this was a purely modern tale, this really wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  However, the pressure they face from this public act of affection causes the social pressure to become so great that they must marry.  This is definitely a reality in historical romance, as the social and romantic rules of the time dictated that discretion was of the utmost importance.  I definitely felt that this was a nice touch that was a tasteful homage to the rules of the past and the more elegant ways things used to be.  In all, Van Dyken’s work is fun, fast paced, and a great pleasure to read.  If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming romance that has all the great aspects of the era of great romance set in today’s fast paced world, definitely give this one a try.

4 out of 5 Stars

Compromising Kessen by Rachel Van Dyken
Astraea Press (2012)
eBook: 218 pages
ISBN: 2940013928350

Special thanks to Astraea Press for sending me my review copy!

#27 A Review of Maid For Love by Marie Force

In the first novel in the McCarthys of Gansett Island series, Maid for Love, Marie Force tells the tale of Maddie Chester and Mac McCarthy.  Mac’s family owns a local inn and are both wealthy and well liked in town.  By contrast, Maddie has a much harder upbringing, with an incarcerated mother and a difficult job as a maid that is constantly given the dirtiest rooms in the inn which Mac’s family owns (do you see the connection yet?).  Additionally, Maddie is haunted by a tarnished reputation that she has had from her earlier years in school, where a vicious rumor (which was false) labeled her as being promiscuous and a floozy. Upon returning to the island for a reprieve from his over-stressed life, Mac absent mindedly steps out into the street, colliding with Maddie who is riding her bike.  He injures her fairly seriously and she faces a long road of recovery, which Mac surprisingly offers to help her with.  Nursing her back to health, as well as caring for her young son and job while she is out of work, Mac falls head over heels in love with Maddie despite his original misgivings about even returning to the island.  Will Maddie return his affections?  Will her reputation be a thorn in Mac’s quest to woo Maddie?  Will Maddie be able to put aside the dislike she has for the McCarthy family?

I believe I’ve told you all before that as a child I spent a lot of time in Cape Cod.  During my trips to the cape we spent time at both Block Island in Rhode Island and Martha’s Vineyard.  When I heard about the Gansett Island and how it was modeled after Block Island I was immediately intrigued, having always found the island to be a quaint place to have lived.  It is the perfect setting for a book series, and I found myself greedily devouring Maid For Love because of it.  Force has created a wonderful setting that becomes as much of a character in the novel as the people do!

I LOVED Mac and Maddie! They are complete opposites and so utterly perfect for each other.  Of course what kind of romance would this be without its share of conflict, misunderstanding, and redemption?  Mac’s willingness to help out this woman he’s never met is not only romantic, but noble.  He’s a genuine good guy that deserves a happy ending.  Maddie helps him see a future he never believed would happen for him.  He left the island years ago and never looked back.  His surprise in finding everything he’s been looking for in the place he didn’t think he’d find it was a joy to read.  Not only is Mac a great guy, but Maddie has suffered SO much.  The teasing she’s suffered as well as the disrespect the other “island natives” have offered her is totally distasteful.  Mac’s acceptance of her and her son on her terms was the balm she needed to soothe all the wounds she’s received emotionally over the years.   Force does a great job at developing both of these characters really well, albeit their love match does happen over an unrealistic time period; I guess the old saying “you know when you know” comes into mind.

If you have yet to read any of the five novels currently in the McCarthys of Gansett Island series, may I highly suggest you change that ASAP?  I read all five consecutively and was drawn to each and every one.  They are written as stand alone novels, but I would tell you to read them in order.  It adds to the experience when you know everyone’s back-stories already.  Happy reading!

5 out of 5 Stars

Maid For Love by Marie Force
Marie Force (2011)
eBook: 636 pages
ISBN: 2940012457301

This book is currently a steal at .99 for nook users. GO GET IT!

#26 A Review of From Now Until Forever by Sherry Gloag

Here at Reflections of a Book Addict we don’t get too many novellas.  A novella is a shorter version of a novel, generally with a word count that doesn’t exceed 50 thousand words.  They are a fun and different way to examine a story, and have a different feel to them that is unique.

The third son of a King of a small country on the border of Switzerland, Liam Fitzwilliam Gasquet hopes that he can remain as inconspicuous as possible.  With the country in turmoil due to insurgents that are attempting to usurp the throne, Liam finds himself under attack from those same insurgents.  Although he had tried to remain safe, his safety is now uncertain.  What he doesn’t know is that his wife of six months, Melanie, is actually also the head of his security detail.  Additionally, Liam thinks that she doesn’t know he’s a Prince, but now that is all out the window as Liam and Melanie are under attack.  Paradoxically as all these revelations come to light, things go dark between Liam and Melanie.  What will become of Melanie and Liam?  Will he be able to accept that she has known more about him than he ever knew?  Will she be able to accept that Liam is far more important and layered than she originally thought?

This novel gave me conflicting emotions.  I definitely see the potential in it, I just felt as if I was reading an unfinished work.  I’ll begin with some of the areas that I feel need improvement, and then end on the positives.  To start, the way in which the characters are presented to the reader felt very abrupt and slightly confusing.  The time the novel takes place in is unspecified, which does work sometimes, but with this novel it just added to the uncertainty I felt.  It felt at times like a contemporary romance and historical fiction at others.  It was almost like reading a sequel, where it is assumed that the reader already knows certain plot points.  I did some research to see if Gloag had written about these characters before, but I unfortunately couldn’t find anything.  The back story is presented in pieces as well, which contributed to the fact that the plot took a while to get going.  Additionally, the ending of the work seemed sudden as well.  I do understand that this is a novella, and perhaps there wasn’t enough space to add more back story (for the introduction of the characters) or more to the ending, but I believe that more time should have been spent on character development in order to better integrate the reader in to the story.

With that being said, there is still a ton of potential in this story.  Gloag’s ideas and general plot are quite well constructed, and the work has a good base.  If parts were restructured and expanded upon to improve the flow of the novella it would become much more intriguing.  Both Liam and Melanie are very likable characters who are quite interesting in their own right.  I especially like Gloag’s creation of having Melanie be in charge of Liam’s security, putting an interesting gender twist on a role that is normally filled by a man who would protect the woman.  All in all, with some editing work this novella could very well be a wonderful addition to anyone’s library.

3 out of 5 Stars

From Now Until Forever by Sherry Gloag
Astraea Press (2011)
eBook: 77 pages
ISBN: 2940013477582

Special thanks to Astraea Press for sending me my review copy!

#17 A Review of An Unlikely Alliance by Rachel Van Dyken

An Unlikely AllianceRachel Van Dyken is quickly becoming one of my favorite romance authors!  She’s the author of The Ugly Ducking Debutante and The Seduction of Sebastian St. James, both novels in her House of Renwick series.  When I heard about her short novella An Unlikely Alliance and its relation to the House of Renwick series, I jumped at the chance to review.

Royce Mc Arthur lives quite the life of luxury.  Spoiled rich, he spends his days and nights gallivanting around New York without a care in the world.  However, all that is about to change after his mother hands down a decree: marry a respectable woman, settle down, and produce grandchildren.  Unfortunately for him, all of the woman who Royce are acquainted with are not the kind of women you’d want to bring home to your mother.  All of this changes, however, when he meets Evelyn DeJarlias at a ball.  Slightly brash and outspoken, Evelyn is the kind of woman that Royce pines for, although she doesn’t seem to return his attentions.  Will Royce be able to convince Evelyn to give him a chance to show her that he is not as rakish as she originally surmises?

Van Dyken’s novels always stand out to me for their unique male leads.  Her “heroes” (if we can call them that) are all men in serious need of redemption and love from a good woman.  They need someone who makes them want to change and be better men.  Royce fits this pattern to a T, going from a spoiled selfish man to a man hopelessly in love, willing to do anything for the woman he loves.  While I believe in his transformation, I think it would have worked better had it been fleshed out more.  Yes, I understand that with novellas you don’t get as deeply detailed character transformations as you would in a whole novel, but I truly believe that Van Dyken has the storyline and characters for a full-blown novel on her hands.

The brevity of the novella is really my only complaint.  Everything happens at such a fast pace that you feel rushed through it.  I guess you can’t really call it a complaint – it’s a compliment to Van Dyken’s writing style and creativity that I want more!  So, if you’re in the mood for a quick and fun story that will hold you captive until the end, An Unlikely Alliance will definitely fit the bill.  For those eagerly anticipating book three in the House of Renwick series, The Redemption of Lord Rawlings (out later this month), this will be a good quick fix to get you through the wait!

3 out of 5 Stars

This is my tenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

An Unlikely Alliance by Rachel Van Dyken
Astraea Press (2012)
eBook 82 pages
ISBN:  9781936852994

Special thanks to Astraea Press for my review copy!

#16 A Guest Review of Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly

Dreaming of Mr. DarcyMy newest review went live on the Austenprose blog yesterday!  Dreaming of Mr. Darcy is book two in the Austen Addicts trilogy by Victoria Connelly.  It follows Kay Ashton as she opens up her own bed and breakfast in Lyme Regis!  Her B&B is suddenly overtaken with guests when a production company hits town to film  Persuasion.  Kay’s life is thrown for a loop by the handsome lead actor playing Captain Wentworth and the screenwriter named Adam.  Who will she end up with? What secrets are the cast and crew all hiding?

If you enjoy good clean contemporary romances, then this one is for you!  You can read my full review here

#97 A Review of The Officer And The Proper Lady by Louise Allen

The Officer and the Proper LadyI was on a bit of a romance novel kick for a week or two last month, eagerly looking for a romance novel that impressed me.  I found one in Unlacing the Innocent Miss, which just so happened to be the sixth novel in Harlequin’s Silk and Scandal mini-series.  Impressed, and eager to learn more about the mystery that was unfolding in the prior books, I picked up book number seven with the hopes of being wowed again.

In The Officer and the Proper Lady, we meet Major Hal Carlow and Miss Julia Tresilian, two completely different people, from two very different social worlds.  Hal is a ladies man, and prefers a life of easy pursuits and lots of flirting, while Julia is a straight-laced person who must marry in order to save her family’s finances.  She moves to Brussels with her mother and younger brother in order to save money, and is turned off by the suitors who come to court her, as they all bore her to death.  Alas, she then meets Major Carlow.  Although the more logical side of her knows that he is an extremely unsuitable match, and that they are complete and utter opposites, her heart begins to tell her otherwise, and it has nothing to do with the aspect of marrying for money.  What happens surprises both Hal and Julia, and is far from the predictable “opposites attract” romance that is commonly found.  How will the Battle of Waterloo change both of their futures forever?  What will the future hold for them?

Going into this novel, I was expecting a typical love story where two completely different people fall magically in love and live happily ever after.  Fortunately, Allen was quick to dispel this preconceived notion with new plot twists and a great back story for both of the characters that rounded out the entire work really well.  For her part in this series, Allen does a wonderful job in making the story effortlessly flow while including tons of details to keep me entertained.  I’m always prone to liking stories where the male character goes through a major transformation to make himself worthy of the woman he loves.  Hal is one of those types of characters, deciding that love is worth changing for and doing so full force in order to secure the woman that he now knows is the one for him.

This is one of the first series I’ve ever read with a continual storyline involving multiple authors.  I was concerned at first that with multiple authors unveiling more of the story with each book that the storyline would become inconsistent and hard to follow.  I have to say my fears were completely unfounded! The “mystery” that looms in the background of all the books in the series continued without a hitch, making me wishing that the eighth book was right next to me upon completion of The Officer and the Proper Lady!

4 out of 5 Stars

The Officer and the Proper Lady by Louise Allen
Harlequin (2011)
Paperback  278 pages
ISBN: 9780373296200

#92 A Review of Unlacing the Innocent Miss by Margaret McPhee

Unlacing the Innocent MissA few weeks ago I reviewed my first Harlequin romance novel and was not the biggest fan.  Some of my twitter friends who had read my review convinced me to give it another go.  I ordered some free books from the Harlequin ‘Silk and Scandal’ series and have to tell you that I was pleasantly surprised.  Unlacing the Innocent Miss by Margaret McPhee is the sixth book in the ‘Silk and Scandal’ series, and reads as a stand-alone.

Rosalind Meadowfield lives in constant fear.  Terrified that she will be discovered as the daughter of a man who has been hung for being a thief, she wills away her days as a lady’s companion.  However even this guise can’t save her, as her employer’s necklace goes missing and she is tagged as the prime suspect.  Even though she is not the actual thief, she runs away to evade capture so as not to face the same fate as her father.  Alas, she does not escape and is captured by “Wolf” Wolversley, the famous thief-taker who is tasked with bringing such people into captivity.  Interestingly, as they travel back to London, Wolf begins to understand that there is more to Rosalind then meets the eye, and he begins to doubt his better judgement in bringing her in for a reward.  Even as Wolf begins to realize this, Rosalind cannot catch a break as the black cloud that has been following her ever since the beginning of the novel rears its ugly head and makes things even more complicated.  What will happen between Rosalind and Wolf?  Will she be saved from the fate of her father?

As I said earlier, I was pleasantly surprised with this novel!  The fact that the entire plot didn’t revolve around sex scenes may have helped.  The last Harlequin novel I read was literally just sex scenes with a story around it.  Unlacing the Innocent Miss actually had a decent story idea that was filled with twists and turns all over the place.  The sex scenes that are contained within the novel are placed in appropriate places, and are written in a tasteful manner that makes them part of the plot movement.

The characters were also intriguing and easy to follow along with.  From what I understand, certain characters in this novel have appeared in one or more of the 5 prior books in the series.  Each book can stand alone, but they have a central mystery that flows between all of them.  I’m planning on reading the entire series now that I’ve read book 6 and 7.  I’m interested in seeing how the central mystery of the series appears with more information and facts.  It’s already full of danger, murder, and spies, and that’s just the little knowledge I have from these two books!

I’m still shocked that I liked a Harlequin romance novel, especially after my critical thoughts on His Lady Mistress.  If all of their romance novels could start with a plot and focus on filling in the details of the story before writing anything else in the way of seductive passages, we would all be better off.  Many accolades to McPhee for taking the high road on this one and building the story from the ground up.

4 out of 5 Stars

Unlacing the Innocent Miss by Margaret McPhee
Harlequin (2010)
Paperback  288 pages
ISBN: 9781426874963

#84-86 Reviews of Questions for a Highlander Trilogy by Angeline Fortin

A Question of Love (Questions for a Highlander (Book 1))I’m going to be doing something a little different today, reviewing a trilogy of books in one review.  The subject matter of the three novels and my thoughts on them were fairly similar, so in an effort to cut down on repetitive reviews my thoughts on all three are cohesively written (or so I hope) below.  The three novels (in order) are A Question of Love, A Question of Trust, and A Question of Lust by Angeline Fortin.  Each novel follows a different heroine that becomes involved with one of the famously handsome MacKintosh brothers.

A Question of Trust (Questions for a Highlander (Book 2))So for the benefit of saving time I’m going to do a quick synopsis of all three books before I give you my thumbs up and down about each book.  A Question of Love follows Evelyn, the daughter of a wealthy American business man who has recently been widowed after her British husband, The Earl of Shaftesbury, is lost at sea.  Evelyn is happy that her husband is dead due to the oppressive control he has over her during their marriage.  Her husband wanted/expected perfection from her, and cruelly drove away everything that made her special.  The only way she’s able to survive this marriage, is to think on a handsome man named Francis MacKintosh that she met in her youth.  Little does she know that she’s about to run into Francis at a friend’s home.  Francis himself has severely changed as well, after a terrible marriage to a woman who openly cheated on him, and gave birth to a child that was not his.  Will the two of them ever trust in love again, to see the second chance they’re being given?

A Question of Lust (Questions for a Highlander (Book 3))A Question of Trust follows Kitty, the sister of Evelyn, our heroine in book one, as she escapes a physically abusive marriage from her American husband.  She runs to Scotland where her sister is now living and is thrown into the path of Francis’s (also from book one) best friend Jack Merrill.  Jack’s father and brother have spent the family earldom away, leaving Jack in a precarious situation.  He must marry an heiress quickly if he has any hopes of saving his family’s name and properties.  Jack sees Kitty as a possible wife due to the large fortune she is scheduled to inherit upon her father’s death.  Kitty however has no wish to marry again after the physical abuses she underwent in her marriage.  Kitty does find Jack appealing however and tells him that if he can hold out until her divorce is final, she will give him all the money he needs to pay off his debts if he will take her as his lover in return.  Will Jack be able to control his feelings and accept Kitty’s proposal?  Will Kitty be able to have a relationship with Jack that feels free?

A Question of Lust follows Moira MacKenzie, Kitty and Evelyn’s friend from finishing school, in her quest to find a husband.  After seeing all of her friends happily married, she decides it’s time to put the past behind her and look to the future.  Her problem is that she has loved Francis MacKintosh’s younger brother Vincent from a very young age.  Unfortunately he and Moira’s brother were captured while they were in the army and never heard from again.  After five years of waiting for news, she accepts the inevitable and tries to force her heart forward.  She decides to let Evelyn sponsor her for a season in town, to see if her heart really is ready.  It is during Christmas however that word reaches Francis that Vin has been found alive!  Upon his return to Scotland with Francis, it becomes quickly apparent that Vin is but a shell of his former self.  Suffering from severe depression and malnutrition among other things he doesn’t find comfort around anyone but Moira.  Having always looked upon her as a little sister, he finds the feelings of sexual desire towards her confusing and loathes himself for looking at the sister of his best friend in that way.  Will Moira be able to convince him that her love for him is strong enough to see him through this dark period of his life, or will his self loathing take him to a place so dark that there is little hope of ever escaping?

I have to give Fortin credit for writing about the darker side of arranged marriages in the 1800’s.  I’m so used to reading about people who are unhappy about being forced into a marriage, only to find out that their spouse is the true love of their life.  While there is nothing wrong with that approach, it was refreshing to read someone unafraid of tapping into the horrors that some women were forced to live with. A Question of Trust deals with mental and emotional abuses, A Question of Love deals with physical abuses, and A Question of Lust deals with issues relating to post traumatic stress disorder.

The stories themselves were intriguing and captivating.  The execution, however, is what was lacking for me.  All three novels could use a heavy dose of the red pen, with blatant spelling and grammatical errors flitting through them.  I know that you get what you pay for, and at $0.99 per e-book I know I shouldn’t have expected the world, but it is still disheartening to see so many errors packed into a work that has so much potential.

Despite these errors, however, Fortin’s collective works are extremely detailed romances filled with conflicts and misunderstandings that make the end results more genuine and worthwhile.  I’m not a fan of relationships that just happen, I like relationships that are built upon through varioous circumstances.  The fresh take on marriages in the 1800’s really won me over enough in the end to look beyond the errors and purchase all three eBooks in the trilogy.

A Question of Love: 4 out of 5 Stars
A Question of Trust: 3 out of 5 Stars
A Question of Lust: 3 out of 5 Stars

A Question of Love by Angeline Fortin
My Personal Bubble LLC (2011)
eBook 1,203 pages
ISBN: 2940013584105

A Question of Trust by Angeline Fortin
My Personal Bubble LLC (2011)
eBook 1,534 pages
ISBN: 2940013584129

A Question of Lust by Angeline Fortin
My Personal Bubble LLC (2011)
eBook 1,126 pages
ISBN: 2940013253858

#77 A Review of The Wedding Vow by Jillian Hart

The Wedding VowContinuing on my historical fiction binge of sorts, I recently picked up The Wedding Vow by Jillian Hart.  Before you chide me on reading a book with a cover fit for the trashy romance novel section, I must admit that Hart’s work has left me impressed by the depth of the plot and character development.  With that said, there were also a few other instances of lackluster writing quality that balanced out the shining points, leaving me with a mixed overall view of the book.  However, I’ll leave it up to you to make a final decision on what you think of this book!

Gwyneth of Blackthorne was living a good life.  She had land, a title of nobility, and a loving family.  However, all this was shattered when her parents were brutally killed by a man who eventually took their titles and land.  Not only did he kill Gwyneth’s parents, but all of the guards and her brother, who were entrusted to protect the family at all costs, were killed by this man and his followers.  By sheer luck, Gwyneth was able to escape, forced to live with her cruel uncle, who works her night and day as a servant.  Her daily routine of misery is interrupted one day by Bran the Fair, who seeks her help.  Known as the greatest healer in the land, Gwyneth is enlisted to help the very man who killed her family.  She finds that the man, who is now a Barron, has been thrown from his horse and is in serious condition.  Not only this, but Bran is his bastard son.  The Barron, knowing he is near death, apologizes to Gwyneth and tells her that in order to repay her, she must marry his son and once again preside over her land which was brutally taken from her.  Although she dislikes the arrangement greatly, the King grants the Barron’s dying wish and Gwyneth marries Bran.  However, this is not Gwyneth’s first encounter with the Barron’s family, as she was previously married to Geoffrey, Bran’s half brother.  A savage man who attempted to beat her, Gwyn was freed from this marriage soon after it began.  Will Bran be as horrible as his father?  Will Gwyneth ever find peace again?

I won’t lie.  This novel needs a lot of editing/grammatical work.  There were times that characters would be in the kitchen and then three sentences later they were somewhere completely different with no transition.  It gave me an oddly paced feeling, and I feel that with the markings of a red pen this could easily be rectified.  Also, adding to the underlying grammar issues, I took issue with parts of Gwyneth’s character.  For someone who had lived her whole life hating “men” and thinking there was no good left in any of them, Gwyneth sure melted fast as soon as Bran was doing things for her (i.e. drawing her a hot bath, finding her a kitten).  Sure, she kept her guard up, but I felt like these actions portrayed her as a weak female that easily acquiesced to others wants and needs.  She was this strong female character that you could give props to, then boom – a man makes her weak in the knees and she’s his.  When Gwyn and Bran have sex for the first time a dramatic shift in the plot came about.  Suddenly everything revolved around making bonds with their bodies and about Gwyn and Bran’s need to possess each other, rather than about fighting Geoffrey and making The Keep (their land) stable again.  It made me sad that there was such a shift, because the storyline pre-sex was actually really interesting.

Putting aside the negative things mentioned above the storyline was compelling with complex characters scattered here and there.  The conflicts between Geoffrey and Bran as well as Gwyn and Bran were gripping plot points all on their own.  Add into that the relationship that Bran tries to begin with the townsfolk and with Gwyn and you have the makings of a dynamic plot.  With all that being said The Wedding Vow is a good read for those you looking to explore a historical fiction work with a bit of a romantic flair.

3 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirty-fifth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
This is my eleventh completed review for the Chunkster Challenge
The Wedding Vow by Jillian Hart
Jillian Hart (2011)
eBook 589 pages
ISBN: 2940013019676