Friday, May 23, 2008

I Bid One American by Amy Corwin

TITLE: I Bid One American
AUTHOR: Amy Corwin
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 90k)
GENRE: Historical romance
COST: $6.00

Charlotte Haywood is outspoken and opinionated about women’s equality, which wouldn’t be a problem if she wasn’t an American heiress living with English relatives in 1818 London. Her behavior and lack of proper social status makes her undesirable as a ward, until her most recent guardians gamble her away in a poker game. Now she’s stuck in the Archer home, and being put face to face with the most notorious misogynist on the social scene, Mr. Archer’s nephew. Nathaniel, the Duke of Peckham, doesn’t want to be corralled into marriage to a simpering, mindless twit, but Miss Haywood is unlike any other woman he’s ever met. Unfortunately, women he spends time with have a tendency to come up murdered, and now Bow Street is looking at Nathaniel as a killer…

I love being surprised by a story. The blurb on this was fairly bland, and the excerpt freakishly short (as almost all Wild Rose excerpts are, I think I’d buy more if they were longer), but something poked me into buying this one anyway. I still wasn’t too sure what to expect after the prologue that didn’t really engage me, but it didn’t take too long for me to start rolling with this charming, madcap of a romance, or to fall for both of its lead characters.

It’s clear from their first meeting how perfect Nathaniel and Charlotte are for each other, and the fact that I still tumble along for this lighthearted romp for the duration of the book is testimony to the author’s skill. Both characters are flawed but charming, engaging me no matter who they are in a scene with. There’s a sense of slowly being overwhelmed for both of them – Charlotte by the social scene she wishes fervently she didn’t have to attend, Nathaniel by the women who refuse to leave him alone – and I found myself laughing and smiling throughout all of their exploits. Nathaniel in particular charmed my socks off. My favorite scene of the entire book is when his uncle suggests they “kidnap” Charlotte so that Nathaniel can rescue her. Nathaniel starts out appalled, but his slow descent into, “OK, but nobody hurts her!” – helped through copious amounts of alcohol – is the funniest I’ve read in a while. I don’t know how plausible it is to have so many debutantes hiding in his bedchambers or his carriages or chasing him down the street – all in the hopes of being compromised so that he’s forced to marry them – but it sure made for some entertaining reading.

The leads are supported by a sparkling secondary cast. Mr. Archer is gregarious and slightly goofy, while his wife is the calm rock these characters need. Even Charlotte’s caretaker when she’s kidnapped for real is fully fleshed. The villains of the piece might seem a little cartoonish, but that’s a minor quibble amongst such a wonderful array of personalities.

The only aspect of the story that didn’t really work for me was the mystery involved in who killed the debutantes. I have to admit, I figured that out as soon as the first body was found, so it left little surprise when everything was exposed in the end. Also, with the leads unable to solve it on their own – Charlotte because of the fact that she’s kidnapped through most of the serious investigation, and Nathaniel because, well, he’s Nathaniel – there’s really no choice but to bring in a third party to do the heavy lifting. Gaunt is a device more than a character, and I found his post-arrest solutions far too telling than showing. In the grand scheme of things, however, I didn’t mind so much because I still got to amble along with the leads who so utterly charmed me.

While historicals aren’t normally my bag, I’m going out and putting the author’s other book on my TBR pile. As engaging and entertaining as this was, she’s definitely one for me to look out for.

Readability

9/10 – Only the occasional problem, but charming dialogue and swift pacing keeps this utterly engaging

Hero

9/10 – His occasional tantrum doesn’t mar an irrepressible charm.

Heroine

8/10 – Not quite as amusing as the other characters seem to think, she’s still personable and entertaining.

Entertainment value

8/10 – Though the mystery part of the story doesn’t work as well for me, the joy at the rest of it more than compensates

World building

9/10 – Whether it’s believable or not to have so many debutantes willing to compromise themselves, I fell into this world with little problem

TOTAL:

43/50

4 comments:

Josh Lanyon said...

This really does sound charming.

You've hit on one of my personal peeves -- the reader should not be guessing the villain too far ahead of the characters unless the reader has some special edge not available to the characters.

Another well-written review (as always).

Grumpy Old Woman said...

Thank you for the excellent, well-written review. I learned a lot from it--I wish I could write such honest, well-documented reviews.

Bravo--I'm going to add you to my "blog list" of blogs to watch.
Thanks!

Book Utopia Mom said...

Josh - It really surprised me. I wasn't sure what to expect from the blurb and excerpt, so discovering its tone was a delight. But you're right about the other. If I hadn't enjoyed the rest of the story so much, I would definitely have been annoyed.

Grumpy old woman - Thank you! It really was a delight to read. :)

Miss Mae said...

This does sound charming...And a great review too!

MM