Saturday, 4 February 2012

Review: 'The Spurned Viscountess' by Shelley Munro

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads.com)

Cursed with the sight and rumors of witchcraft, Rosalind's only chance at an ordinary life is marriage to Lucien, Viscount Hastings. She doesn't expect love, only security and children of her own. Determined to go through with the wedding, she allows nothing she encounters at the gloomy Castle St. Clare to dissuade her.

Recently returned from the Continent, Lucien has no time for the English mouse his family has arranged for him to marry--not when he's plotting to avenge the murder of his beloved Francesca. He has no intention of bedding Rosalind, not even to sire an heir.

Though spurned by her bridegroom, Rosalind turns to him for protection when she is plagued by a series of mysterious accidents and haunted by terrifying visions. Forced to keep Rosalind close--and tempted into passionate kisses--Lucien soon finds himself in grave danger of falling in love with his own wife...

The Review

I can't remember now why I picked this book up because it was way back in December.  I can only imagine that it's the same as the reason I ever head in the historical romance direction.  I was pretty tired toward the end of the year and reading short sort-of-historical romances is my equivalent of watching a trashy chick flick.  I know that they're cheesy and that they're never going to win any literary prizes but I like them.  Don't judge me.

So why,you might ask, am I about to moan about the writing? Ok, so you weren't going to ask because you didn't know I was going to.  But I am so that's my way of warning you that this is a sort of strange review.  I pick up a book because I want to have a certain trash factor and then I bemoan the dressing up of said trash....wait, let me explain!

I have absolutely no problems with stereotypes.  Heck, I was actually hoping for a ridiculously brooding gentleman, a woman to simper her way into his stony heart, a suitably conniving stepmother and an appropriately gloomy and mysterious mansion.  The writing interrupted my mind-numbed enjoyment by being noticeably repetitive.  I lost count of the amount of times that Rosalind "lifted her chin" in a display of stubbornness and/or determination.  Likewise Lucien's scowling.  At first, the attempts to round out the characters with some mannerisms were nice touches.  After a while, every time either of those particular examples came up, I did a kind of eye-roll to myself and grumbled a bit.  I'm fun like that.

Writing aside, the narrative is muddled and a little odd, switching between Rosalind and Lucien's POVs indiscriminately.  At first, it was a good balance between Rosalind's good intentions and Lucien's brooding.  They're both reasonable characters with decent back stories.  Even that became repetitive, though, as the chapters started to seem similar.  In general, it's interesting to see the same event from two perspectives.  Not so much when there's a pervasive sense of deja vu.

Rather than enhancing the story, the magical twist of Rosalind having "the sight" came across as a slightly lazy technique.  Rosalind can read the minds of anyone she physically touches.  Persecuted for years because of her uncanny abilities, Rosalind professes to always wear gloves so as to avoid unwanted contact and alerting to her new unsuspecting family to her quirk (a great idea that I'm pretty sure would work a lot better if she actually ever remembered to wear them).  Every now and then, Rosalind gets a handy peek into her unsuspecting spouse's mind, which obviously makes it much easier for the author to have Rosalind understand his social and emotional ineptitude.  Because obviously talking to your husband to get to know him is a much longer process and could be a bit like hard work.  

It's not all bad and I might be being unfair.  There are pirates, smugglers, secret passages and there is plenty going on.  It's a reasonably fast-paced novel and the last quarter is rather exciting because the characters are finally far apart enough that the alternating POV technique doesn't seem awkward and actually serves to heighten the drama.  Even in my interest, I also managed to be disappointed, because the writing was much better and it was a hint at what the book could have been.  What I'm saying, badly, is that it's not terrible...just not great.


Oh, and there is an adult scene or two so if you're of a sensitive disposition when it comes to raunch, you have been warned.  

Overall:  I sound as though I hated it.  I didn't hate it, it was just flawed.  If you want something quick and not overly taxing and are feeling tolerant of not-so-perfect writing, you'll have a lovely time with The Spurned Viscountess.  If you read it fast enough that you don't have time to focus too closely on its shortcomings, you'll probably really like it!



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Date finished:  19 December 2011
Format:  eBook
Source:  NetGalley
Genre:  Mystery; Historical fiction; Romance
Published: by Carina Press in September 2010