There is a prince, there is a bride, there is ACTUAL BODICE RIPPING!
What more could a historical romance reader ask for?
The Plot: Attempted murder. Marriage of convenience. Obscure European royalty.
Jocelyn Shelton needs glasses and likes big words, plus her given name is one I am in no position to object to. As a child in genteel poverty, she promised herself she would marry a rich, handsome prince, live in a castle, and thus she and her family would be protected from the world. Rand (Randall), Lord Beauchamp, is a devilishly handsome former spy, and her brother-in-law’s close friend. He encounters Jocelyn during a pre-empted assignation and saves her life. For spectacularly maguffiny reasons, the only way he can continue to protect her is by marriage and secreting her away to his uncle’s castle. For further maguffination, Jocelyn is voluntarily kidnapped and pursued to the obscure European country of “Avalonia” [insert eye roll here].
Some notes because I can’t be bothered to compose inter-connected paragraphs:
Jocelyn notices that Rand is about six inches taller than her and thinks this is a perfect difference. As I am a reader who notices height differential illogicalities, this detail won the author a golf clap.
The heroine is problematic and behaves inconsistently: Jocelyn #1 is an extremely ambitious, occasionally petulant, shallow, mercurial character. Jocelyn #2 is mature, calm, charming, devoted, and tired of being considered an ornament. Frequently, both Jocelyns appear together in one scene resulting in a whole big bunch of COME HERE! GO AWAY!: Rand says something she finds insulting, she storms off, she forgives him before he can apologise, he does apologise, they make up, Rand says something she finds insulting, she storms off…
If I’ve done the arithmetic correctly, Jocelyn is 18 years old, which probably explains a lot, if I am giving Victoria Alexander credit for writing her young as opposed to capricious. Rand is 32. That is a big age difference. I chose to ignore it. I have read a large age difference extremely well-done, but this is not that book. Julie Anne Long’s What I Did for a Duke is that book. It’s fantastic. Go read it.
A bodice gets ripped and a shirt rent in one of the love scenes. Go try to rip open a men’s dress shirt. I’ll wait. [humming, filing nails, sorting feathers] It didn’t work did it? Now try to rip a quilt in half. I’ll be here when you get back. [starting next novel] It didn’t work, did it? EXACTLY. I’ve read novels where the hero deftly slices the laces or starts a tear in her shift with a sharp object, but there is no way in hell that a bodice several layers thick and sewn together with tiny stitches is simply going to give way.
The pacing was wackadoo. People often fall in love quickly in romance novels, and in real life, but I never understand the extremely compressed timelines romance authors use. After Jocelyn and Rand come together as a couple, they get about 3 days of bliss before things go kablooey. Why can’t they have three or four weeks? That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.
Other than the quibbles above, Victoria Alexander is a competent romance writer. She is funny and she portrays the romantic connection well. Since I enjoyed her novella, Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover, and this book was inconsistent, I’m going to give her another try. Next up was going to be The Importance of Being Wicked, but I didn’t want to buy it and the only copy available at my library was LARGE PRINT. There was no way that was going to happen, not even so I could make a joke here, which I did seriously consider. (I still needed my reading glasses to peruse it. We all age, dearest.) Instead I picked up a couple of Alexander’s other books; a couple by another new-to-me author Celeste Bradley; a Meredith Duran; and the new Suzanne Enoch which is guaranteed to alternately charm and vex me.
13 days to the new Tessa Dare novella Beauty and the Blacksmith! Dare is an autobuy author I haven’t reviewed yet, but look!, I’ve already started my review –
This is the part of the review I wrote before I read the novella:
I am very much enjoying the cheesy title. It’s fun and the Tessa Dare Spindle Cove series is always fun. How is it that I haven’t reviewed any of her books yet? Malin has, if you want to check a couple out.