Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Winning Bess by Marissa Alwin

TITLE: Winning Bess
AUTHOR: Marissa Alwin
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 22k)
GENRE: Historical erotic romance
COST: $4.45

In 1847 New York City, Irish immigrants are second class citizens. That doesn’t stop Colm Devaney from having a dream, though, or from protecting Bess McGinty and her father when they need him to. He gives them a place to stay, but what he’s mostly interested in is finally winning Bess’ heart. But with her father ailing and refusing to give Colm his permission to woo her, Colm knows he has to take drastic measures. He agrees to participate in a fight where the prize is a gorgeous sapphire. With it, he’s sure he can give Bess the future she deserves…and fulfill the dreams they both have.

This is probably one of the sweetest stories I have ever bought from Ellora’s Cave. I bought it because it seemed to vary from most of the other gemstone stories EC has been featuring this year, with a genuine plot idea that didn’t revolve around sex. Thankfully, that notion wasn’t misleading. There is a layer of genuine emotion through the whole thing, with an underlying innocence that harkens to more simplistic times. The fact that Colm and Bess don’t even kiss for over 5k tells you something. The development of their romance matches the rhythm of the period, as well as the sweetness of the entire story. That’s not to say there isn’t sex in this. It’s an EC story, after all. But it’s contained to three small scenes that, honestly, play second fiddle to their feelings.

Colm was a darling. He’s big and slightly brutish, but when it comes to Bess, he’s fiercely protective and tender. All he wants is to escape the city and find a future for them. Everything he does in the story leads him on that path. Bess wants the same thing, but her behavior annoyed me a good part of the time. She is fearful of Colm getting hurt in the fight and takes steps to try and protect him. Except the steps she takes are borderline idiotic. I almost gave up on her. If it wasn’t for how much she loved Colm and the genuineness of the relationship, I probably would have.

The prose itself is very simple. There’s nothing memorable about it, and it has a tendency to suffer from some of the lazy editing EC can be guilty of (then for than, for instance). Details are spare but well-placed in creating the world of 1847 NYC for these immigrants, but in the end, it’s the romance of Colm and Bess that swept me off my feet. They’re wonderfully charming.


7/10 – Not the most sophisticated prose, with some minor editing issues


8/10 – Ah, I’m a sucker for the big, protective guys with an even bigger heart


6/10 – At one point, she teeters precariously on the TSTL ledge, but she always manages to bring herself back from it.

Entertainment value

7/10 – Its sweetness and genuine emotion make it satisfying when other aspects might not.

World building

8/10 – A solid job placing us in time and place



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