Most helpful critical review
108 of 121 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2011
You'll have to forgive me for sounding somewhat irritated in this review...I just finished this book, rather against my will, and have a few bones to pick.
Frankly, I am baffled at the rave reviews this book has been receiving. Though I'll admit it started out with plenty of promise, by the time I got 40% through it got annoying, and by 70% it became nearly unreadable. I frequently wanted to do bodily harm to the heroine, and the hero was so underdeveloped I barely cared whether he got the girl in the end or not. The emotions, especially towards the end, felt contrived and superficial.
This is Sarah Maclean's first adult romance, and it shows - the writing is very amateurish in several places. There is lots of word repetition, as someone else mentioned - there are two instances where the heroine seems to be unable to think of any way to describe her feelings other than "sadness." I believe she uses the word about five or six times in the span of few pages. There's also waaaay more telling than showing. We are told explicitly what each character is feeling and why, especially when it comes to the hero.
I have to agree with the other reviewers who said this book was full of romance novel clichés. The spinster nursing a long-term crush on the emotionally distant rake has been done hundreds of times before, and much more creatively. The book was also rife with Big Misunderstandings, and the kissing and love scenes were full of overused phrases. Although, there was one term, "sweet rain" (I'll let you figure out what that refers to), that I don't think I've ever seen, and it made me burst into giggles every time I saw it.
Here are some of my other issues with the book (may contain very minor spoilers):
1. I just didn't buy that the hero was incapable of love because his mother left him at a young age. I'm not saying it's not a plausible reason to be skeptical of love, or to have problems trusting women, but Maclean really didn't do a great job of selling it. We are told that his mother's abandonment is the reason Ralston is determined not to love, but it's left at that...Ralston very rarely refers back to it, whether in flashback or inner dialogue. It seems like it was just a convenient reason to keep the couple apart until the end.
2. The list of things Callie wanted to accomplish made me dislike her more and more. Not only were the items on it tired Regency clichés, but they demonstrated the heroine's lack of concern for the damage she could inflict on her family's reputation - particularly that of her younger sister - if she were to be caught. As someone who is relatively well acquainted with the time period, it just wasn't believable to me that an aristocratic spinster would threaten her family's honor just for a few cheap thrills. Because Callie does so repeatedly, I couldn't help but see her as selfish and absurd.
3. If Maclean did much research for this book, it didn't show. Though this probably won't bother some people, I adore the Regency and have done extensive reading on the period. It seemed as if Maclean pulled most of her details from other historical romances, or perhaps from quick Google searches. For example, Callie loudly calls Juliana by her first name at a ball, and during a shopping trip on Bond Street, Callie, Juliana, and Mariana take to laughing out loud in public, which would have been considered quite vulgar. There are also several instances of glaringly modern speech that creep into the dialogue, such as "in the romance department," "keep a low profile," and "for the record." Of course, I don't expect historical romances to always be accurate, but the author should at least try.
4. The relationship, too, was terribly underdeveloped. Every time Callie and Ralston were alone, they usually exchanged a few lines of dialogue and then made out for the rest of the scene. They never actually got to know each other very well, and I found myself unable to believe that they knew enough about each other to truly be in love.
5. It was one of those novels where, if the hero and heroine had simply communicated like normal human beings, most of the obstacles between them could have been avoided. Also, for a woman who is supposedly brave enough to do some of the things that Callie does, she is annoyingly insecure. I won't give away too much, but a certain plot contrivance towards the end causes her to blow things way out of proportion and she instantly comes to the conclusion that Ralston's feelings for her are false, despite everything that has occured between them. But of course, they can't talk it out like rational adults...instead, Callie throws a fit and stalks off. Yet bafflingly, Ralston sees this display as a sign of her "newfound strength" and "powerful confidence." What???
To be fair, Maclean does have her moments of cleverness...every now and then I would find myself chuckling. But more often I found myself laughing and rolling my eyes at things that were not meant to be funny. Pit against authors like Loretta Chase and Lisa Kleypas, this book has little to offer a seasoned historical romance reader. It brings nothing new to the table, and merely mimics romance novel tropes that have been done countless times before -- and much more skillfully. Had Callie maintained the fun personality she displayed in the beginning throughout the entire book, that might have been enough to rescue it. Instead, she quickly devolves into a whiny, weepy, tiresome twit.
I skimmed the last portion of the book, just to be able to say I'd finished it. After all, I paid for the darn thing. My advice: if you're convinced by all the high ratings, as I was, and really want to read this, get it used or from the library. In the end, I deeply regretted paying eight bucks for it.
In conclusion: If you're looking for good spinster/rake novels, try "Lord of Scoundrels" by Loretta Chase or "The Devil in Winter" by Lisa Kleypas. Both are vastly superior.