Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Romance, Heavily Marbled

As promised, the new and interesting reading :) This is the first time in while I'm reviewing something that's relatively fresh in my mind.  What is it? As you probably do not recall, Lauren Willig talks about her weekly reading on her website.  A few weeks ago, she mentioned have just discovered and absolutely loved Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, which I have (fortunately or unfortunately) already read and thoroughly enjoyed (at least I'm pretty sure I did, I watched the movie but I'm fairly positive I also read the book).  Anyway, she mentioned that she also read The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett the same week, but hadn't enjoyed it as much, perhaps in contrast to Miss Pettigrew.  So I knew right away it wasn't going to be extraordinary but the Amazon summary sounded right up my alley, so I also knew I was going to read it.

(side note - of course, I never got around to finishing this and it is no longer fresh in my mind, oh well)

So the premise of this book is an indigent but genteel woman (of the Victorian age of course) makes her living by performing odd jobs for various patrons.  One of them invites her to spend some time at her country estate, where she is entertaining her very eligible nephew (a Marquis of course), along with some potential brides.  From the title, we know that our own heroine, Emily, is to be the chosen one.  And what could be more fun than seeing the choosing play itself out? And, indeed, the summer estate party scene of courtship provides satisfying romantic developments.  The romance is, I think, fairly well done, though I found the characterization somewhat strange. Chiefly, Emily's good nature makes her quite loveable, and she is also very capable - but the author puts great emphasis on the simple-mindedness that accompanies that good nature, and seems to relish it.  This is quite a change from, really, most books I read, where even when a protaganist is not the brightest, they make up for it in street smarts or emotional intelligence or whatnot.  But it didn't particularly bother me, it was just a bit jarring.

So much for the first half or so of the book.  Then... they get married.  Which I would have assumed happened at the end of the book, as is typical of a historical romance.  But actually, this was more of a marriage of convenience, which is certainly fair game, so I guess not in and of itself too strange. What was rather strange was the turn the book took... involving the Marquis's current heir, who returns from India determined to thwart his cousin's plans for cutting him out of the succession.  And so begins a rather sinister plot twist, involving heathen Indian maid servants, strange foreign ways, and even... murder (well attempted murder).  As Emily struggles to acclimate to her new role (hence the title), she is threatened not by the dainty barbs of society, but by the more solid danger of people actually out to get her.  And where is her husband during all this? Off on a business trip (or maybe it was diplomatic, can't really remember).  How is that supposed to be a convenient marriage plot?

And then... just abruptly as first twist happened, Emily escapes from her would-be persecutors and holes herself up in London to await her husband's return.  She is no longer physically threatened, so we can go back to enjoying the romantic developments (limited though they may due to her husband's absence).  This is really the end of the book, it doesn't take all that long for her husband to return for a satsifying finale (quite dramatic in its own way).

So what to say about this book? It certainly had very uneven tone, and the characterization was strange. A large part of the book had more of Gothic/mystery tone than the light romance I was looking for.  But in the end of the day (and the beginning too :)) it had the classic historical romance I was looking for. So can't say I regret reading it (for free :))

Verdict: 3/5