Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Golden Girl by Joan Wolf (3.5 stars, traditional)

Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Thoughts After Reading:
I've had a streak of disappointing reads lately, so I chose Joan Smith's Golden Girl with the hope that it would offer a calm, unpretentious romance storyline. To my chagrin, the book fit my expectations a little too well. I enjoyed the novel - a straightforward marriage-of-convenience storyline - as well as the fact that there was almost no romance conflict. The characters become acquaintances, marry for non-romantic reasons, sweetly fall in love, and deal with the extended external conflict. Except that, since the story lacked a romance conflict it was almost too easy for the characters. They start out as good people, and - even if they don't fully realize it yet - are well in-love by the midway point of the novel. The second half was a lot less enjoyable as a result, with the action slowing down and an awkward external conflict finishing things up.

As the description suggests, the hero marriages the heroine for monetary reasons. The description is misleading, though, because the hero starts to care for the heroine even before they marry. The book opens with the hero inheriting a dukedom, a result of his gambling-addicted father committing suicide. The hero inherits a staggering amount of debit, and the only reason out of the mess is to marry one of the richest heiresses in London. The hero's and heroine's relatives work out a deal together, and the couple are brought together at a house party to see if they would suit. The heroine is not aware of the pending marriage, but both protagonists are find that they enjoy each other's company. The hero is handsome and charming, while all too aware of his responsibility as a duke. For example, he is inwardly humiliated by his PTSD because he feels it's a sign of weakness. The heroine is a bit shy and unassuming at first glance, but is strong when she needs to be. Her greatest passion is painting, and she has considerable skill for it. That's actually how the duke convinces the heroine to marry him - he promises her the freedom to paint and take her on tours across Europe. The storyline moves forward matter-of-factly, with the romance deepening in the background. There was some touching moments scattered throughout the novel, and the relationship felt fairly genuine. At the same time, things started getting boring after a while - I started to read faster when I hit around the 60% mark. I also felt that a disproportionately large part of the book was dedicated to the external conflict. While some good things came out of it - such as the heroine having the opportunity to stand at the hero's side when things got dicey - it was a bit on the creepy side. As a final note on lovemaking: sex was implied a number of times, but there were only a couple of actual love scenes... and they were brushed over in very mild terms.

 Joan Smith's Golden Girl wasn't quite the delightful marriage-of-convenience romance I was hoping for, but it was a solid story nonetheless. There's something to be said for a serene and authentic relationship, without ridiculous misunderstandings or huge fights. I think Golden Girl is worth a look.

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