If Pride and Prejudice is the ultimate You Are Everything I Never Knew I Always Wanted romance, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is the perfect illustration of what the romancerati refer to as The Big Misunderstanding. If at some point during their courtship or honeymoon, Maxim de Winter had managed to blurt out, “My wife was a vain, inconstant shrew and I loathed her, you little fool”, everyone would have been spared a lot of agita. Nothing to Commend Her has two Maxims and two The Second Mrs. de Winters. Both keeping secrets, both refusing to have basic conversations or ask simple questions that would clear everything up.
I wrote the preceding paragraph before I finished Nothing to Commend Her. I was taking a break from rolling my eyes and groaning. I often get review ideas while reading the book, such as a romance review template, and this time I planned one around the following elements:
- I got this book for free on Amazon.
- Jo Barrett is a new author because they often give books away to appeal to new readers. This was how I found this gem from Caroline Linden.
- As Barrett is a new author, I would write a constructive criticism review of her book with helpful hints for Ms. Barrett and her editor. I did that before with Shana Galen and Anya Wylde.
- I was going to be nice about it.
Then it turned out that Jo Barrett has published over thirty romances, both historical and contemporary, and now I can’t really see the use in pointing things out. She’s clearly making a living, so I’m just going to do this:
- I love the book title and the main characters’ names, Magnus and Agatha.
- No one can simply go from riding side-saddle to riding bareback, especially without the intervening step of learning to ride astride. Granted, Agatha fell off, but she was riding flat out at the time.
- The word explicit was used when implicit should have been. Captious of me, I know.
- The aforementioned endless agita: Magnus felt his scars made him unlovable/unbeddable and assumed Agatha was repulsed by him when she showed any emotion other than joy; conversely, Agatha felt plain and rejected by Magnus, even when she showed joy.
- Why are they in love exactly? Is miscommunication erotic?
- I was able to figure out instantly who the villain was and I am oblivious to machinations.
- There is too much is going on. Strangers marry in a Beauty and the Beast scenario. Someone is trying to kill Beauty. Endless house guests keep appearing.
- The “Agatha Is a Scientist” subplot was thrown in, presumably, to appeal to female empowerment impulses. Magnus didn’t mind and accommodated it immediately.
- There was a perfunctory B plot, maybe C plot, with no other purpose but to bring in a secondary female lead for Magnus’ best friend to fall for. Normally, this would lead to the next book in the series. It didn’t. They got engaged after a week.
There was more, but I don’t feel like wading through my bookmarks. No more bullet points, no more Jo Barrett.