Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Loving Eliza by Ruth Ann Nordin (4.5 stars, historical)

Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Thoughts After Reading:
I had high hopes when I first stumbled upon Loving Eliza, particularly after seeing that the author was Ruth Ann Nordin. So it was rather gratifying to watch the novel surpass my every expectation. Loving Eliza is set at the end of the 1800's and has a western/frontier feel to it. The storyline was enjoyable to read, but it was also significantly darker than that of The Earl's Inconvenience Wife. The darker plot elements allow for a deeper and more genuine relationship to form between the main characters, as well as offer a true redemption style storyline. I liked the main characters for the most part, and found myself eagerly anticipating when they could finally reach their HEA.

Life has thrown severe hardships at both the hero and the heroine. The heroine, after becoming orphaned at the age of fourteen, moved in with her uncle. He rapes the young girl, and when she becomes pregnant he sells her to a brothel. She has had to work there for twelve years, until a preacher offers her a fresh start by sending her to a distant city. Her actions throughout the novel show her to be a truly good person, unable to take advantage of people even at her neediest. The book opens with the heroine arriving at the new city. It was planned that she would stay with the preacher's relative, but the relative has died. So, instead, she ends up accepting the hero's job offer of being a housekeeper. The hero has been mute all of this life, and has been severely stigmatized as a result - even by some of his brothers. He's inexperienced, never even having kissed a woman before getting to know the heroine, and the heroine quickly realizes he's the type of man that would never take advantage of her. The hero meets the heroine because he's waiting for a mail-order wife, and - when his fiance doesn't show - he quickly wants to marry the heroine. The hero finds the heroine physically gorgeous, and she seems so perfect in other ways: he enjoys her idle chatter, she treats him like any other person, and she takes the time to understand what he's trying to say through his gestures. Feelings authentically develop on both sides as they interact with each other, with each person being very much what the other needs, but the heroine doesn't feel like she's wife material at all. She's not innocent in a number of ways, and she can no longer have children.  There's further hurdles to jump, and the heroine's past plays a part in both the romantic and external conflicts. The half star deduction in the rating is because - while I always understood where the heroine was coming from - it felt like she kept making some bad decisions, and almost made worse ones. Nonetheless, the extended resolution and ending were extremely satisfying.

As a final note on sex scenes: I'm tagging this review "PG-13". There were a couple of love scenes, but they were extremely vague and highlighted the emotional - rather than physical - aspects of sex between two people who love each other.

I'm always game for a humorous and lighthearted read, which is pretty much the type of book The Earl's Inconvenience Wife was. But I also love it when the romance is much more meaningful, when I know and like the characters well enough to empathize with their great difficulties and feelings for each other. Because then it's just so satisfying when they finally do make it past the finish line, side-by-side. And that's precisely the type of book that was Loving Eliza.

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