Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Marian's Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly (1 star, traditional)

Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 1 out of 5

Thoughts After Reading:
Let me start by stating that Carla Kelly is one of my favorite writers of historical romance. I'm not sure I've come across any other writer with quite the same talent of making the romance seem so wholehearted and realistic. If you haven't read her novel The Wedding Journey, I suggest you do so immediately.

That being said, Marian's Christmas Wish was a crushing disappointment for me. It was made worse by the fact that for about the first 60% of the book, I was more than ready to give it 5 stars. True to her reputation, Kelly initially weaves a deep friendship between the hero and heroine with just a hint of something more. The heroine is only 16, which fits her personality well. She is not above being outspoken or engaging in some well-meant mischief, but at the same time is shown to have a mature attitude of kindness and of trying to take care of her family. This kindness, coupled with a type of vibrancy, charms the 28-year old hero. The hero seems like a good guy, with both a charming personality and a desire to help the heroine's "christmas wishes" come true. By about the 60% mark he has kissed the heroine passionately and seems about ready to propose. Then, everything goes to the gutter with his trip to London. The hero could have saved the heroine a tremendous amount of anguish by simply being a little less mysterious about the trip, even if he couldn't have told her all the details of the mission. But no, all he offers are vague reassurances. Worse is the fact that we learn the hero not only courted the spy but but bedded her as well. To me, this felt like a great grievance against the heroine, especially since he originally hoped to propose to the heroine as if nothing was wrong. He essentially pushes his love of the heroine aside as the request of the crown. And nothing satisfactory is done to rectify that mortal (from the perspective of a romance book, anyway) character flaw. Despite the fact that the heroine has been threatened at knifepoint, the hero allows her to head home without much protection. As a result, it's not even the "hero" who tries to sacrifice and rescue the heroine but rather her brother.

After the heroine almost dies, the hero does give up his position as a spy and the heroine eventually forgives him/agrees to marry him/etc. But nothing demonstrates that the hero is worthy of the heroine's love, worthy of that HEA. As a romance, the story wasn't worth the virtual paper it was printed on. It's going to take me a while to forgive Kelly for this one.

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