On someone's review I read somewhere this book was described as tweaking the genre convention of the "plain Jane" heroine who wins the handsome hero oOn someone's review I read somewhere this book was described as tweaking the genre convention of the "plain Jane" heroine who wins the handsome hero on account of her wit/goodness/intelligence. Because in this book our heroine is indeed perceived by most people as plain (and a bit chubby) and yes, she is also good and smart BUT our hero falls in lust with her at first sight. He's straight up totally hot for her before he even knows the full extent of how awesome she is. Eye of the beholder and all that.
The plot was, y'know, okay, with shenanigans involving an evol abusive grandfather and a dastardly fiance and some fleeing and chasing and deceiving. But it was nothing to write home about EXCEPT for the fact that despite the truly angsticularly crap hand Prudence and her sisters were dealt, the book focuses more on how they survive and love and protect each other. How refusing to give in to despair is a kind of rebellion for them.
Oh, and Gideon is just delicious. Funny and devilish and full of respect for his lady love.
(view spoiler)[I kept waiting for the word "rape" to appear as hints were dropped that this is what that jerk Philip did to Prudence - and she clearly both does and doesn't know this, as she says to him that "it was only once" and she hadn't wanted to do it but still feels complicit/soiled. So when Gideon and Prudence finally make love and he behaves exactly as one should with a woman who's had a bad first experience - i.e. being gentle, admitting to his own nervousness and encouraging her to take the lead - I kept expecting the scene where she describes her first time and he edifies her. But it never comes! And I think I'm actually really glad because this means that he truly doesn't judge her for having gotten pregnant out of wedlock, and not just because it wasn't her fault. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
When I think of this book, I think of how wonderfully capable the heroine is. And the hero too, actually. But it is a defining characteristic of MadelWhen I think of this book, I think of how wonderfully capable the heroine is. And the hero too, actually. But it is a defining characteristic of Madeleine. We know that she was once the proprietor of a cheese shop, and that in the future she plans to farm, and that she is a "planner" or what might now be called a "fixer," for she engineers the seemingly impossible: the rescue of a famous convicted murderer right from the gallows. But truly, it becomes evident that this woman could do anything she sets her mind to. And the hero is in awe of her for it!
That's one of my favorite things about this book: how very much the h/h appreciate and enjoy one another. (Actually, this could be said of pretty much all of Long's books. Yay!)
They spend the majority of this book on the run, so I suppose it's a romantic suspense. And in the best way, for me anyhow, in that although I was avidly waiting to find out what next crazy aspect of the mystery would unfold (blackmail! stolen corpses! giant skeletons! three-legged dogs!) I was enjoying the ride just as much as the anticipation of the unfurling mystery.
I also really liked how the hero and his brother - though they'd been rivals for the same woman since childhood - so clearly loved each other all the same. Even when he had a small, unwilling suspicion that his brother had set him up, the hero still loved him.
This book also does a great job as a first book in a series - setting up the world and its major players, without falling into the trap of obvious sequel bait: being boring and awkward. We get just enough, just a whiff of continuing threads, but in ways that make sense, i.e. we don't get more of surrounding characters than is appropriate for their places in the lives of this book's leads.
Also, to be non-spoilerishly vague, there were certain aspects of the mystery that weren't completely revealed, mostly ones that had to do with the personal, interior worlds of other characters. Of course, this makes sense! And though I'd like to find out more in the future, I'd also be okay with not finding out, because sometimes you don't.
One pesky thing though...(view spoiler)[I was somewhat confused, in the end, over who exactly had decided to hide Horace the witness and thus doom the trial in the first place. It wasn't Mrs. Redmond, and I guess it wasn't Mr. Redmond either, since he was shocked that she should think that he had done so. So I guess it was as Mr. Redmond said (even though he implied that he was not telling the whole truth) and his man of business just took it upon himself because he thought that's what Redmond would want? So I guess I figured it out in the end, but I was a bit confused there. I was also confused as to whether Mr. Redmond himself had actually known that Colin was really his son. I mean, obviously, he should have been aware that it was a possibility... But I think this is one of those things that's supposed to be vague, so. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I wasn't sure how to rate this, or rather what standard to hold it to - in comparison to the majority of other books in this genre (it's better)? Or iI wasn't sure how to rate this, or rather what standard to hold it to - in comparison to the majority of other books in this genre (it's better)? Or in comparison to Long's later books (it's not as solid)? And then there's the complication of the fact that I suspect that Long has even better books she's yet to write.
So I'll ambiguously say 3.5 stars here, but click four stars.
Long's greatest strength lies in the depth, intimacy and detail of her characterization. She writes slow, nuanced stories of two people becoming truly known to one another, while coming to know and love themselves. Generally, her characters have aspects of their personalities that have previously gone overlooked by both the world at large and themselves. This is consistent in all her work that I've read, (though some of it is stronger than others) - this tone and care that she takes with her people - and yet the actual characters themselves are gratifyingly varied from book to book.
And this is all here in this book, just perhaps not as dazzlingly so as in others. And I could also say that the spy/mystery/intrigue plot here is neither as clever in its narrative unfurling or in its totality as say the one in The Perils of Pleasure. But in this book it is also true that this is not so much the point - meaning, it's not really a "mystery" in the generic sense, so it is the emotional and psychological effects of the plotty past that matters here rather than the narrative construction of that plot itself. If that makes sense?
I also really enjoyed the lovely relationship between the heroine and her "Aunt Frances," who was shown to be truly kind, funny, and human. I enjoyed it so much that I even googled to see if there was a feminine form of the word "avuncular:" of or relating to an uncle; kind and friendly toward a younger or less experienced person. And there is! Materteral. Not as aesthetically pleasing as avuncular, but I'm glad it exists.
[Note: I both enjoyed the mildly meta bits where Aunt Frances and Susannah read and discuss Pride and Prejudice together and saw them as further evidence of this book as a more fledgling effort from Long, like she couldn't help herself from showing us her delight with and intellectual prodding at this genre.]...more
I'm not entirely sure how to rate this. One of the main things it has going for it - incredibly well-researched historical detail on what life was likI'm not entirely sure how to rate this. One of the main things it has going for it - incredibly well-researched historical detail on what life was like in the British navy in the early 1800s - is also the source of its main problem: there's just too much sailing/navy minutiae! This excess made the story drag, and also made me feel guilty for wanting to skim such nutritious historical accuracy!
Yeah, but anyhoo. I did appreciate the way that this book makes that old HR genre cliche - the woman-in-pants disguise - actually believable because a) it seemed plausible that this particular girl, raised on ships as the only daughter of a navy family, could pull off taking her brother's place as a midshipman, yet b) there were multiple people who questioned her disguise.
I also liked some other ways this book confounded genre cliches what with a sympathetic debutante foil to the tomboyish heroine, and combined warmth, friction and abiding affection to be found in familial and friend/comrade relationships here.
Also, I liked how this book put the H/h in a position where they had a lot in common, and really get to know (and admire) one another's strengths and abilities as their attraction built.
So maybe I guess this is more of a 3.5 star book for me? More if you're really interested in navy history. ...more
3.5 stars? I really liked the intimacy and day-to-day details here, but the mystery/plot was weird and somewhat nonsensical. Also, perhaps not the mos3.5 stars? I really liked the intimacy and day-to-day details here, but the mystery/plot was weird and somewhat nonsensical. Also, perhaps not the most historically accurate? But. ...more