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The Bashful Bride (Advertisements for Love) Kindle Edition
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The shy and retiring Ester takes the bull by the horn and literally seizes the day. This story takes us on a journey to Gretna Green the hard way. Along the way, Ester's mettle is tested. She's been the coddled spoiled daughter of an affluent textile merchant her entire life. She was shielded from the vagaries and hatred her skin color engendered. It is an eye opening journey that calls upon her to rise to the challenge. Rise is exactly what she does. Her marriage allows her to grow up overnight and become a true help mate to the man of her dreams.
Vanessa Riley incorporates true history into this fictional tale and weaves a fantastic love story. There are no weak characters in this series. They are all drawn with precision and allowed to shine in their own time. I can't wait for the next in the series.
I liked both Bex and Ester. One interesting element of their relationship was that while they agree to the elopement on their first meeting, they're both plagued with doubts, which seems more likely than them just being gung-ho about it all the way. I loved all of Ester's insecurities because of her family--her worries that someday her husband might cheat on her, her resolution not to be "a couch wife" who just sits back and lets her husband do as he will but to be actively involved in their life. And I also liked that in the areas where she seems the most self righteous, she ends up taking a step back and admitting she might be wrong.
(Also, Ester's infatuation with Bex because he's such a good actor with a golden voice is adorable.)
On the other hand, it often felt like this book kept on going back over the same ground. The trip from London to Gretna Green is covered in great detail, and Ester and Bex both keep on going back and forth and back and forth on whether this is a good idea, whether they should turn back, etc etc. While it's realistic, it's the sort of internal struggle that I'd rather see more in brief than drawn out. In fact, the book is two thirds over by the time Ester and Bex actually get married, and while some of that time is spent on reasonable considerations and interesting interactions with Ester's family, a lot of it feels like filler.
However, those parts still provide valuable character insight I suppose, and the last third is fun, wrapping up all threads left hanging and providing a plot about Bex's involvement with abolitionists. Speaking of which, one highlight of this book is how it examines racial relations in the time period: the prejudice often shown against even Ester, who is Blackamoor but relatively wealthy and well-to-do, and the hostility towards the abolition movement. To be honest, this element was what interested me in this book initially, and it certainly followed through. So the multicultural element was good.
Overall, I'd say it comes across as more historical than many historical romances, and the relationships are interesting, but it does drag at parts. I'd recommend but with qualifications.
I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is so hard to review.
First of all, this book opened wonderfully. I love how Bex and Ester met, and it was adorable how Ester couldn't string a coherent sentence in Bex's presence because she's been crushing on him for two years. I even enjoyed the horrible road trip these two made to Scotland in order to elope. The banter is great, and Bex is really the hero of my heart, he charmed both me and Ester.
The only thing that didn't work for me turned out to be Ester, and since she's, well, the /heroine/, it really affected my enjoyment. I can't pinpoint exactly when it went wrong for me, because I truly adored her in the beginning. She was innocent and sweet, but also stubborn and determined to escape what would have been a horrible arranged marriage.
But Ester also had this one-track mind of how things should be and if anything didn't go her way (read: Bex and his abolitionist efforts) then BYE. Her persistence in trying to get Bex to abandon the cause he had devoted his life to didn't really sit well for me.
And then there was her reaction to Bex and his Past. I was a bit stressed when Bex didn't tell Ester about the truth of his past upfront because I knew it was going to be a source of conflict and I wasn't looking forward to it. But after what happened post-confession, I understood a bit of Bex's hesitation to open up about his past. It was a MAJOR conflict and there wasn't enough pages to deal with the aftermath, IMO, and in the end, I was left to wonder if Bex would be better off without her. Because really, she made him miserable and still the poor guy jumped through hoops to win her back, and she wouldn't even give him the chance to properly explain himself.
Overall, I came for the romance and I was disappointed that it didn't work out for me, but I liked Vanessa Riley's writing and I'm still going to check out her other works. This book just unfortunately didn't do it for me.
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