Friday, October 5, 2012

Review: The Captain and the Wallflower by Lyn Stone (4 stars, historical)

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Thoughts After Reading:
Lyn Stone's The Captain and the Wallflower promised to be an intriguing mix of the "wallflower" and the "beauty and the beast" storylines. In other words, an irresistible combination. The actual result was a novel that was certainly enjoyable, but also one that inspired a confusing jumble of feelings as I progressed through the story. For example... I found most of the writing to be very well-done and entertaining, including more than a few clever bits of comedy. But there were also times when the hero would have odd, internal monologues about his "admiration" for one of the heroine's characteristics, and flow of the story would suddenly become awkward. Similarly, there were so many moments of relationship building between the hero and heroine that were sweet and authentic. At the same time, though, I was immensely happy when the plot moved past the romantic conflict... because half the time I could not decipher what misunderstandings the hero and heroine were debating or worrying about. There were times when the author seemed to adhere to (or at least acknowledge) Regency era propriety to the letter, but other occasions where certain phrases or actions would seem suspiciously anachronistic in nature. I'd like to stress again, though, that I found the novel to be a good romance overall. The characters were relatable (if not quite consistent), the suspense was built up excellently, the external conflict was handled well, the love scene was touching yet humorous, and it was very satisfying for the HEA to finally come about.

I'm not going to tag this review as "wallflower" because - in a rather ironic twist - the heroine really wasn't a wallflower to start with. Instead, she was simply a young lady in unfortunate circumstances. A few years back, she was engaged to marry her childhood friend. When he dies in the war, and her parents die suddenly, she becomes a companion to her deceased fiance's mother. She eventually moves in with her uncle, so as to not be a burden to the mother. The heroine's uncle starts out indifferent to her, but rather quickly becomes emotionally abusive. He tries to make the heroine's life miserable, effectively becoming her jailer and catching her both times she tries to run away. The only reason he brings her to the ball at the beginning of the book is because rumors are starting to circulate that he murdered her. Therefore - when the hero first meets the heroine - she is poorly dressed, half-starved, and is feeling more or less defeated. But that isn't her normal personality, and it doesn't take much for her to bounce back. It turns out that her typical attitude is much more multi-dimensional. She can be happy-go-lucky, taking an almost childlike joy in the world. Or she can be quick tempered, resisting (or at least internally resenting) any attempt to coddle her like a helpless female. She also can take charge was gusto, and is not afraid of making demands when she feels the need. In other words, the heroine's depth of character was slightly contradictory... but also impressive. The hero, meanwhile, was a soldier in the war, not expecting to inherit a earldom. He is an honorable and rather kind-hearted gentleman, but also someone who can blow events out of proportion. He had a classically beautiful fiance waiting for him on the other side, but it doesn't take long for her true colors to show. When he comes back from the war, unsure if he is blind or not, she is not compassionate in the slightest. Instead, she screams when his scared eyes are revealed and goes around starting vicious rumors about him. After enduring this scandal, the hero comes to a grim determination. He must marry in order to inherit his wealth. But his wife needs to be as little like his former fiance as possible, one that would appreciate his proposal and be fine with being a wife mostly in name only. He also wants someone who wouldn't interfere with his commitments, since he anticipates the unexpected earldom to require his undivided attention. In short, he wants a wallflower. So the hero goes to an event where he would expect wallflowers to attend, looks for the most wallflower-like candidate... and settles on the heroine. When she hears his proposal, she decides on two possibilities - either he's making fun of her or he's crazy. But the hero eventually demonstrates he is in earnest, the heroine jumps at the chance to escape her uncle, and the hero whisks her off to the countryside to be chaperoned for the weeks before the marriage. What follows is a series of plot elements. First, a mystery plot is added as murder attempts are made on the characters' lives. There's significant romance development, as the two fiancees get a chance to know each other and form a lasting emotional bond.  And then, of course, there are various romantic and external conflicts for the couple to overcome.

There were a significant number of scenes throughout Lyn Stone's The Captain and the Wallflower that bothered me for one reason or another, and I wouldn't be surprised if other readers felt the same. However, I still most certainly enjoyed the book. I was entertained by the diverse storyline, loved the sweetness of the romance between the main characters, found the comedy to be intelligently humorous, and was ever so happy when everything came together at the end. So it wasn't perfect, but The Captain and the Wallflower is a novel I would definitely recommend giving a chance.

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