A Season for Sin by Vicky Dreiling

A Season for Sin by Vicky Dreiling

  • Title: A Season for Sin
  • Author: Vicky Dreiling
  • Series: Sinful Scoundrels, Book 0.5
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Forever Young (Hachette), September 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley (99¢)
  • Length: 100 pages
  • Trope(s): Rake, Widow
  • Quick blurb: Rake intends to make a beautiful young widow his mistress, but she’s not interested.
  • Quick review: Can’t really review an unfinished story.
  • Grade: DNF

Although I actually read the whole thing, I’m tagging this as a DNF, and here’s why:

Introducing the Sinful Scoundrels…

The Earl of Bellingham is nothing is not a creature of habit: money, meals, and mistresses must be strictly managed if a man is to have a moment’s peace. It’s a system that works splendidly for himuntil now. With his oldest and dearest friends succumbing, one by one, to wedded bliss, Bell is now restless and a trifle lonely. Enter the Sinful Scoundrels — Colin Brockhurst, Earl of Ravenshire, and Harry Norcliffe, Viscount Evermorewho drag him back into society and draw his rakish eye to the ton’s new beautiful young widow. Bell isn’t after a wife, but a challenge. And Laura Davenport should fit the bill quite nicely…

Word count: 29,000 words

That’s the official description of this “novella” from Amazon. Do you see the words “preview” or “teaser” in there anywhere? No? Me either.

This is not a prequel. This is not a novella. This is not even a short story. Characters and conflict are introduced, but there is no resolution.

The “prequel” story ends at 67% of the Kindle version, with the remaining third an excerpt from the beginning of Dreiling’s upcoming full novel. If I had paid for thiseven just 99¢I would have been really irritated at the blatant misrepresentation.

What’s there was an OK read, but I got the impression it would be just another typical Regency. And the publisher’s tactics in charging readers for a useless bit of fluff will not compel me to pay $7.99 for the author’s next release.

My Summer of Harlequin: By the Numbers

Only TWO man-titty covers. TWO. I clearly did something wrong.

Heroes/heroines:

Ranch Romances

  • Alpha Males: 5
  • Brooding/stoic/angsty heroes: 10
  • Cowboys: 3
  • Sheiks/sheikhs: 2
  • Tycoons/billionaires (male, non-sheik): 3
  • Title/peerages: 4 (all male)
  • Cops/spies/detectives: 3
  • Nerds: 1
  • Heroines with believable careers: 7
  • Heroines with romance-novel- plot-device-only careers: 7
  • Wallflowers/Plain-Janes: 2
  • Pregnant heroines: 1

Kids and dogs:

  • Secret Babies: 6
  • Plot moppets: 8
  • Dogs: 2

Plots:

Don't Ever Love Me

  • Villainous/Reckless/Annoying Siblings: 8
  • Kidnappings: 5
  • In Disguise: 4
  • Coma/Amnesia: 2
  • Airplane Rescue: 1
  • Ski trail groomer chase: 1
  • Accidental nakedness: 1
  • Twin-switching:  1
  • Dream sex: 1
  • Helicopter shoot-outs: 1
  • Use of log as weapon: 1
  • Use of screwdriver as weapon: 1
  • Cult leaders: 1
  • Serial killers: 1

Lessons Learned: My Summer of Harlequin Experiment

Lessons Learned: My Summer of Harlequin Experiment

Subtitle: NetGalley is Not Good for People with OCD

When I got my first Kindle, I glommed onto historical romance authors like Julia Justiss, Elizabeth Rolls and Sophia James because their books were cheap and fun. Then I discovered Carla Kelly and I officially became a citizen of Romancelandia.

It wasn’t until I started cataloging the evidence of my OCD tendencies on Goodreads that I realized all those books were Harlequins. Yes, I used to make fun of Harlequins. My self-inflicted punishment was wasting a LOT of money on Laurell K. Hamilton, who is solely responsible for my avoidance of all things paranormal.

ANYWAY, I like to broaden my knowledge and expand my horizons and step out of my comfort zone and all those other clichés. Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to try out some of the old-school category romance I’d been curious about but reluctant to spend money on.

[Note: I may be a grammar geek, but I think “don’t end a sentence with a preposition” is a stupid rule.]

ANYWAY, I requested a few e-galleys (well, OK, maybe a dozen or so, shut up and keep reading). I also purchased more to make sure I was being fair — even if I couldn’t be objective. I’m a Libra, we like things balanced.

The final grades ranged from A for Author Crush to several DNFs. As I was reading and reviewing, I tried to keep the category requirements in mind – most of the titles were what I expected, and sometimes not in a good way.

So, in no particular order….

Continue reading

A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare

Let’s be honest: It’s obvious Tessa Dare wrote this book JUST FOR ME. She just forgot to put my name in the dedication.
A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare

  • Title: A Lady by Midnight
  • Author: Tessa Dare
  • Series: Spindle Cove, Book 3
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Avon Books, August 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via Edelweiss ($5.99 ebook)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Hero, Smartass Heroine, Wallflower, Angst, Unrequited Love
  • Quick blurb: When a family of strangers shows up looking for their long-lost heir, a stoic military officer must step in to protect the local wallflower he secretly loves.
  • Quick review:  Uptight, conflicted hero. Smart, smartass heroine. I was doomed to love this book.
  • Grade: A

Corporal Thorne could make a woman quiver, from all the way across the room.

That was just the opening line, for crying out loud. Let’s take a glimpse at the HEA, shall we?

“It’s all your fault.” His voice was rough with emotion. “You listened when I needed it. Laughed when I needed that. You wouldn’t go away, no matter how I scowled or raged. You loved me despite everything, and you made me look deep inside myself to find the strength to love you in return. I’m a different man because of you.”

My Sweet Babboo

One-Quote Review: Second Hand by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton

I have to do a One-Quote Review for this because anything longer would be nauseatingly sycophantic.

  • Second Hand by Heidi Cullinan and Marie SextonTitle: Second Hand
  • Author(s): Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton
  • Series: Tucker Springs, Book 2
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, GLBTQ (M/M)
  • Publisher: Riptide Publishing, September 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($6.99 ebook, available 9/10)
  • Length: 175 pages
  • Trope(s): Friends-to-Lovers, Rebound, Angst, Gay for You, Dysfunctional Families, Beta Heroes
  • Quick blurb: Lonely and jaded pawn shop owner falls for seemingly-straight customer.
  • Quick review: The dog’s name is MoJo. See his begging eyes and wistful expression? He wants you to read this book.
  • Grade: A

“I just want to be the first choice for someone for once. Just once.”

So, Heidi and Marie, just go ahead and push all my buttons, and THEN reach in and pull my guts out. You both seem to be good at that sort of thing.

ALSO: Hurry the hell up with your next books, so I can fling myself on the altar of your brilliance ALL OVER AGAIN.

I guess that last bit crossed the “sycophant” line, huh? Oh, well. I HAVE NO SHAME.

One-Quote Review: My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin

My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin

  • Title: My Fair Concubine
  • Author: Jeannie Lin
  • Category/Series: Harlequin Historical; Tang Dynasty, Book 3
  • Genre(s): Historical (9th century China)
  • Publisher: Harlequin, June 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($4.49 ebook)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Extreme Makeover, In Disguise, Unrequited Love, Beta Hero
  • Quick blurb: Stern soldier trains orphaned teahouse girl to take his runaway sister’s place as a political bride.
  • Quick review: I swooned. And then I got weepy. And then I swooned again.
  • Grade: A

He’d trained her in calligraphy to teach her patience and discipline while using the same techniques to try to control his own emotions. He’d buried them deep and only allowed them to show in one place.

In the forms, she could see the gathered memories of their days together. She could see the hundred different want he thought of her. The flowing curves of wistfulness, the tight control of denial. It was all there. Anger, hope, longing. Desire.

Huh? What? Oh, sorry – I was swooning again.

This was my first Jeannie Lin. Now I own her entire backlist and I pre-ordered her next one. I think this means I have an Author Crush. In a totally non-creepy, non-stalkerish kind of way, of  course.

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Reading With Me Vicariously: Status Updates

July 27 – 10%:

Chapter one, and the hero already gets cold tea thrown in his face. This is a good sign.

July 28 – 25%:

First writing lesson = *swoon*

July 28 – 42%

I wish the slumber party in my living room would actually slumber so I could READ MY BOOK because I THINK THERE MIGHT BE SOME SMOOCHING SOON.

July 29 – 71%:

*~*happy sigh*~*

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NOTE: This inspired an idea – Pygmalion/My Fair Lady Theme Week coming soon!

One-Quote Review: Heart Murmurs by Suleikha Synder

Let the Sunday of Squee commence!
Heart Murmurs by Suleikha Snyder

  • Title: Heart Murmurs
  • Author: Suleikha Snyder
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Wild Rose Press, August 2012
  • Source: Amazon, 99¢
  • Length: 34 pages
  • Trope(s): Alpha Male, Smart/Smartass Heroine, Age Difference, Lust in the Workplace
  • Quick blurb: Hospital heartthrob finds a challenge in a smart and prickly surgical resident.
  • Quick review: I’m having withdrawal symptoms. I think I need a sequel.
  • Grade: A

He was a prick, and Anu wanted him so bad she could taste it: sharp and hot, like his smile. It was sheer insanity. Having a crush on an attending – on a department chief, at that – was right up there with hallucinating leprechauns.

It took me 45 minutes to choose just one quote from the dozens of smartass and swoon-worthy lines I highlighted. This short story is pretty close to perfect, and I want MORE MORE MORE.

Loving Lady Marcia by Kieran Kramer

Let’s be honest: It’s obvious this book was written and published JUST SO I COULD MAKE FUN OF IT.

  • Loving Lady Marcia by Kieran KramerTitle: Loving Lady Marcia
  • Author: Kieran Kramer
  • Series: House of Brady, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency – in theory, anyway)
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, August 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($7.99 ebook)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Trope(s): Instalove, Ruined by a Rake, Reunited, Mistorical
  • Quick blurb: “Overnight, I went from debutante to bluestocking.”
  • Quick review: It’s pretty much what you’d expect from the title and blurb.
  • Grade: DNF

Being in love, she decided, was not for the fainthearted.

I made it to about 30 percent. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be (e.g., Lady Alexandra Bad), but it wasn’t good.

All the cover quotes for Kieran Kramer’s recent debut series featured a LOT of synonyms for fluff: Delectable. Frothy. Confection. Better than dessert. All those same words can easily be applied to this first installment in the House of Brady series.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I KNOW it’s supposed to be goofy and irreverent.  But even a “confection” has to have some substance – the whipped cream is supposed to be a topping, not the main ingredient. The Tudor era offers an even better analogy — Henry VIII and his minions were extremely fond of intricate marzipan sculptures called “subtleties.”

Think of it this way:

Jersey Shore marshmallow peeps vs. Downton Abbey marshmallow peeps

Too many parodies and spoofs and homages and “inspired bys” rely on “SEE WHAT I DID THERE? HAHAHA!” neon signs and abandon the need for good storytelling. With Loving Lady Marcia, whatever attempt the author made at plotting and characterization is completely stifled by the painfully placed and phrased pop culture references.

And sometimes they’re even info-dumped with gratuitous Regency name-dropping for extra impressiveness!

A servant brought in a lovely tea tray, and her mother began the old, comforting ritual of pouring tea – Daddy’s favorite Irish blend – chatting all the while about Marcia’s siblings. Gregory enjoyed being a man-about-town but also worked with Daddy several days a week on house designs. Peter fancied himself a Corinthian and loitered around Tattersall’s and Gentleman Jackson’s with his friends. Janice had made her debut and presentation at Court several weeks before, and the whole household was at sixes and sevens attempting to keep up with all her gentleman callers; Robert was at home because he was between halves at Eton, and Cynthia was mad for Greek mythology and had asked Mama to call her Andromeda.

Yes, Lady Marcia calls her father “Daddy.” But it’s OK, because “she pronounced it the Gaelic way, Doddy.” But it’s NOT OK, because it’s distracting and extremely annoying. Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Daddy told them how lovely his three girls were – almost as lovely as their mother….

ALSO: The family name of the House of Brady is Sherwood.

So you’ve obviously been waiting ever so patiently to learn if there’s a “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” in there somewhere, right? Almost, but not quite:

Marcia’s cheeks burned. “No one was in awe of me.”

“Really? Everyone was ‘Marcia, this. Marcia, that.’ And you didn’t discourage them.”

The exchange wasn’t even with Jan/Janice – it was dialogue between our heroine and her jealous former schoolmate.

Ready for a final bite of saccharine sweetness before the closing credits? No? Too bad, so sad. Suck it up, because here it comes:

But they shared a love for their family and a zest for life that bonded them through thick and thin.

Oh, BARF. And for crying out loud, don’t TELL me. SHOW me. Ugh.

The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

If you’re an Eloisa James fangirl, walk backwards slowly with your eyes on the floor until you reach a safe zone. Then turn and run like hell, because this is going to be ugly. (See what I did there?)
The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

  • Title: The Ugly Duchess
  • Author: Eloisa James
  • Series: Fairy Tales, Book 4
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Avon Books, August 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via Edelweiss ($6.99 ebook)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Plain Jane, Big Misunderstanding, Friends-to-Lovers, Reunited, Pirates
  • Quick blurb: “Hey, my wife of two days yelled at me because I married her for her money so I guess I’ll run away and become a pirate and shave my head and give myself a flowery facial tattoo and then show up out of the blue seven years later at the special session of Parliament called to declare me officially dead and then I’ll get all pissy when my bitter bride doesn’t immediately succumb to my piratical sexiness.”
  • Quick review: Hated it. It was awful. Dreadful. Did I mention I HATED IT?
  • Grade: F

In the weeks and years to come, when she looked back she identified that as the precise moment when her heart broke in two. The moment that separated Daisy from Theo, the time Before, from the time After.

In the time Before, she had faith. She had love.

In the time After…she had the truth.

What’s not to love about such lovely romantic angst like that, right? If only there was more of the angsty romance and a lot less piss-me-offery.

Theodora/Daisy is annoying, James/Jack is an idiot and the plot is all kinds of FUCKED UP. I don’t want to recap the whole mess of crap, so here’s what pissed me off the most:

After that the duke proceeded to demonstrate for his duchess almost all of the terms he knew for the sport of Venus. He was a pirate. He knew a lot.

THAT WAS THE HEA, FOR FUCK SAKE.

The happy ending was the “hero” showing off the boinking and boffing skillz he learned and earned while fucking prostitutes during his long absence at sea. I don’t consider that to be romantic AT ALL.

The opening scenes were promising — a plain but confident heroine and the childhood friend who realizes he loves her. But the Black Moment occurs way too early in the story, and then it was just more and more incarnations of “OH. FOR. FUCK. SAKE.”

An hour later, James had a shaved head and a small poppy tattooed beneath his right eye. He appropriated a name from Flibbery Jack, the pirate captain who would no longer be needing it, and gave it too himself.

Yes, FLIBBERY JACK. I mean, come on. Was that really necessary?

When Dread Pirate Emo Whiner made his Dramatic Reappearance precisely seven years later at the special session of Parliament just as he was about to be officially declared dead, I gave up and skimmed through to the repulsive conclusion and barf-worthy epilogue. Blech.

When her characters aren’t off randomly fucking around, Eloisa James is a really good writer. The quiet and introspective moments are lovely, her wit is wicked, and she’s brilliant at showing instead of telling.

James is not without a few quirks , though — she slathers on the similes and metaphors, but they’re just ordinary purplish prose, not full-on Simile Sex:

  • …like tradesmen’s wives seeing the queen.
  • …like a fox with a clutch of hen’s eggs.
  • …like tepid milk at bedtime.
  • …a tongue as sharp as a cracked mirror.
  • …as convincing as Marie Antoinette pretending to be a shepherdess.
  • …like a hollyhock that someone forgot to stake.
  • …as if she were a dog in a fight.
  • …like a drunken meringue.
  • …as if minutes turned into drops of honey.
  • …as tightly as puzzle pieces.
  • …as tightly pressed together as ha’pennies in the church box.
  • …like a marauding Visigoth.

And of course there’s the obligatory reference to a mythological goddess:

“Theo (the heroine) is like the huntress Diana…. Beautiful and yet slightly deadly, ready to whip out a bow and arrow, or turn a man into a squealing swine. Sensual, and yet with just a snowy touch of the virginal about her.”

I can easily ignore fluff like that, and I can even disregard the gratuitous inclusion of the Prince of Wales saying “what ho!” because no one calls him “Prinny.”

However, I most definitely cannot shrug off the casual acceptance and justification of infidelity.

I’m not new to this series – I really liked When Beauty Tamed the Beast, and I LOVED the novella Storming the Castle. In fact, I’ve read James’s entire backlist, which I attribute to Everyone Else Loves Her, I Must Be Missing Something Syndrome.

But I think I’m done with this author now. With very few exceptions, her books have left me with a vaguely squirmy feeling – a sort of lingering veneer of squickiness and disgust at her repeated reliance on no-consequences adultery as an amusing plot wrench. That’s a deal-breaker for me, and I just can’t give James another pass.

Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall

Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall

  • Title: Veil of Pearls
  • Author: MaryLu Tyndall
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical (American)
  • Publisher: Barbour Books, July 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($9.26 ebook)
  • Length: 312 pages
  • Trope(s): In Disguise, Angst, Star-Crossed Lovers, Revenge, Mistorical
  • Quick blurb: Light-skinned former slave finds love with plantation playboy in 1811 Charleston.
  • Quick review: Great title, gorgeous cover, promising setting, very disappointing story.
  • Grade: DNF

Each step she took toward freedom loosened the fetters enslaving her soul until they began to slip away, one by one.

Oh, fudge. I really really really wanted to love this – an intriguing premise, a pre-Civil War Southern setting and scads of five-star reviews. Unfortunately, I only made it about a third of the way through. The anachronisms and the logic issues and the sermonizing and the awkward mix of purple prose and clichés were just too distracting to ignore.

As usual, I feel guilty for DNFing an inspirational, because the Road to Hell is paved with Bricks of Sarcasm.

And…now I feel guilty for snarking about going to Hell. And now I’m freaking out because the irony of the guilt doubling in on itself might spawn a ginormous spiritual wormhole or something. Which I really hope doesn’t happen, because wormholes usually have some sort of space/time continuum weirdness, and time travel stuff really confuses me. I need to stop watching Doctor Who. This is the way my brain works, in case you were wondering whether I really need that Zoloft prescription.

Speaking of time travel….

The Mistoricals

Let’s get this big one out of the way first. Nearly every review of Tyndall’s 14 books mentions her attention to historical accuracy, so I wasn’t expecting to find this in Chapter 2:

Morgan circled one of the Victorian stuffed chairs in front of the hearth….

Yes, VICTORIAN. In 1811 South Carolina. I lost my trust in the author right there.  I was reading an ARC, so I downloaded the Kindle sample of the published book to double-check, but the sample wasn’t quite long enough to include this scene. I really hope that someone noticed and fixed it, but that kind of error should NEVER have even made it that far.

We later meet a minor character named Lord Demming. No, he’s not a British peer taking a vacation from the House of Lords.

“He is the speaker of the General Assembly and a descendant of the Earl of Demming.” Though Morgan had heard he was the younger son of the late earl and therefore had no right to the title “lord.” But such things were tolerated in America.”

Wait just a gosh-darn minute (please note I’m restraining myself because this is an inspirational). Fake British titles were tolerated in early American political leaders? I’m no historian, but I seriously doubt…. Oh, never mind. It’s not worth the effort because there was really no reason to include that bit of irrelevant characterization.

But maybe Charleston was the last bastion of Loyalist sympathy, because there’s this:

Had she even had a coming out? Being a commoner, most likely not.

Yes, COMMONER. In 1811 South Carolina. Again, not necessary at all.

There were several other jarring words and phrases that irked me: Don Juan, city council, landlubber, hair the color of alabaster, besotted (as a synonym for drunk), pampered urchins and coddled urchins (to describe the idle rich), witch doctor…. And that was just the first third of the book.

Authors: PLEASE remember Kelly’s Golden Rule of Writing (And Also Life In General Because It’s An All-Purpose Sort of Rule):

Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

It might be historically plausible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not awkward and distracting.

Also: Readers do not need to be reminded 27 times that your heroine has ebony curls. Disguising the luxuriant tresses as “trickles of obsidian” isn’t fooling anyone.

Leaps of Logic and Very Convenient Coincidences

We meet our enslaved heroine Althea as she escapes a brutal Barbados plantation. She walks hours – still in leg shackles – through a jungle to the nearest port. Because she’s only one-quarter Negro, she’s light-skinned enough to pass for white. She instantly finds a Charleston-bound ship, conveniently captained by an abolitionist, paying for her passage with money she somehow earned during her years of slavery.

The captain informs her he’ll waive his “women on board are bad luck” rule but he won’t feed her. We are given no indication of how she survives the week-long journey without food. We aren’t shown – or even told – how a beautiful young woman traveling alone is able to reach her destination completely unmolested.

You might think this was a Harlequin Intrigue. But you’d be wrong.

One month later, our heroine – now known as Adalia – is safely ensconced in a Catholic church in Charleston, sleeping on a spare cot in exchange for volunteering her healing skills to treat slaves. She worries that her luck is about to run out:

She’d not eaten since yesterday when the last of her money had run out. Of course, she still had her mother’s pearls, but she’d rather die than sell the last remnant of her family – a symbol of the love she’d known before slavery.

She was somehow able to hide a pearl necklace from her ABUSIVE SLAVE OWNER for SEVEN YEARS. And I still can’t figure out how she managed to save the necklace in the first place.

…the hurricane swept them out to sea, leaving Adalia and Delphia orphans. Two days later, Sir Walter visited their farm on the pretense of checking on his neighbors. With soft words and promises of care, he stole them, frightened and hungry, from their beds.

Where could she have possibly hidden the necklace as she was being stolen from her bed?

I almost quit reading right there. I probably should have.

OH! ALMOST FORGOT! The necklace is made of black pearls. I’m not kidding. Check the cover. Subtle, huh?

Where were we?

Ah yes – the starving waif clutching her pearls. But never fear! A local doctor appears at the church (it’s A Miracle because she had just prayed for it!) and offers our heroine a position as his assistant, with free room and board at his home.

Other penniless orphaned beauties might be concerned at such an offer, but our heroine is the trusting sort:

Relief loosened the tight coils in her chest. A man who read his Bible was surely a good man.

Because everyone who reads the Bible is a saint. (That was sarcasm, a literary technique used by bona fide saints. For realz. I looked it up.)

Historical world-building gone wrong

On her very first foray to a plantation, Althea/Adalia literally knocks our hero off a bridge into a creek. But first she calls him a “swaggering, vainglorious despot.”

You might be wondering how a slave acquired such erudition. You’ll recall she wasn’t born a slave; we’re told that although her parents were poor farmers, they educated their daughters in mathematics, literature, history, science, Latin, and religion. Althea/Adalia must have been a been child prodigy to learn all that by age 12.

“You do not own me, sir, as you do the poor souls who work your land. Therefore, you cannot insist I do anything.” She couldn’t believe how wonderful the defiant words felt on her lips. How glorious! How empowering!

Yes, EMPOWERING. I fully expected to see “synergy” and “leverage” and “calendarize” in the next chapter.

But wait – there’s more! A few pages later, our heroine observes our charming hero thusly:

His face no longer held that look of abject boredom so often found on the spawn of the tediously affluent.

Here’s another one:

“You overbearing, self-gratifying” – she growled, attempting to control her tongue. Her attempt failed – “presumptuous vain, pampered milksop.”

Not done yet….

“I don’t hate you sir. I merely know your kind.”

“And what kind is that?”

She stopped and eyed him. The social season had begun in Charleston, and much like the season in London, it was a time when the affluent and powerful forsook their plantations to converge on the city for balls, plays, concerts, and general frivolous amusements. That was all she was to him – an amusement.

“The kind who have more wealth than they can ever spend, who fritter away their time in idle and often immoral amusements, and who think they are better than everyone else simply by nature of their birth and fortune.”

The heroine was raised on a small farm in Barbados. She was forced into slavery at age 12.

I keep repeating these important points, but it seems like I’m the only one standing up and yelling “How in the HECK (this is an inspie, so no h-e-double-hockey-sticks allowed) would she know what the London social season is like? SHE WAS A SLAVE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.”

But then, just a page or two later, she turns into a simpering idiot:

With wide eyes and open mouth, she was like a child seeing the world for the first time.

So is she a worldly sophisticate or is she a childlike simpleton? I cannot get invested in any character – much less the main character – whose thoughts, words and actions are so completely at odds with the given backstory. That kind of inconsistency ruins the world-building for me every time.

The heavy-handed preachifying

As a general rule, I prefer subtlety and understatement in my casual reading. I don’t need to be beaten over the head with THEMES and MESSAGES and LESSONS. For example:

Morgan glanced at the slaves, their bare backs leveled to the sun. Lud, this woman challenged him like no other! Why had he not considered the right or wrong of forcing others to work against their will, of keeping them imprisoned on the plantation like animals?

When I read passages like that, I get the feeling that the author thinks (a) readers are stupid OR (b) doesn’t trust her own writing to get the message across. Sometimes both.

Too many inspie authors fall into the trap of telling instead of showing – but pulpit-pounding is never a good storytelling technique.

Perhaps that was why God had brought them together – the most ill-suited, unlikely couple in Charleston! For Adalia to open Morgan’s eyes to the horrors of slavery and perhaps change the opinions of the next generation. Or maybe even to bring Morgan closer to God. He certainly needed a relationship with the Almighty. If she could achieve the latter, God would certainly convince him of the former.

I don’t need to be told this. I had already figured out all on my own that Adalia is the Perfect Christian who is Licensed to Judge because God Is Her BFF. I avoid people like that in real life, and I don’t find those traits are inspiring in any way.