Friday, January 29, 2010

Smuggled Rose by Amy Corwin

TITLE: Smuggled Rose
AUTHOR: Amy Corwin
PUBLISHER: Cerridwen Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 74k)
GENRE: Historical romance
COST: $5.95

Margaret Lane has spent the past seven years living in the shadow of her ruined reputation. It doesn’t matter that the affair never happened, but the results of the attack she fended off still haunt her. When a young man is hurt in the process of helping smugglers bringing goods to her from France, she has no choice but to take him in and nurse him back to health. She just doesn’t expect his brother, the cynical Michael, to show up as well…

In order for me to find virginal characters interesting, they need to have some sort of flaw, some quirk to make them stand out rather than remain the wallflower they inevitably are. Intelligence, a smart tongue, a strong will…there’s a whole plethora of possibilities to explore. In this particular novel, the heroine was promised to a rake as settlement for a lost bet, and in the process of fending off the unwanted attention, was whipped across the forearms to be scarred for life, in more ways than one. The man, named Bridgewater, then proceeded to spread a series of lies about his dalliances with her, ruining her reputation and forcing her into seclusion. She hates being touched by men and is resigned to being a spinster, supplementing her small income with some smuggling on the side. This latter touch is the detail that I believe is meant to make Margaret interesting, in addition to her damaged psyche, but truth be told, I haven’t been this bored by a whiny, weak heroine in a long time.

She isn’t thrilled at all by Michael’s arrival at her house, and though some deep part of her finds him fascinating, she keeps him at bay by being cold and distant. When he realizes his egregious error in believing Bridgewater’s lies, Michael attempts to make up for it by seeing that she gets a good match made anyway, all the while trying to stifle his own desire for her. I never believe it for a second. Margaret identifies him from the start as part of The Fancy, the group of young men that includes Bridgewater who gamble, cavort, and are more interested in satisfying their own hedonistic desires than anything else. Even Michael self-identifies as one of them. Yet, he turns on a dime – with the exception of his impulsive nature, which after his realization about Margaret never really manifests itself in anything much more dangerous than an angry walk, that he credits entirely to his genetics. There’s no smooth flow, no logical progression for me to see or believe it.

It’s not just me. Michael’s mother, the irrepressible Lady Ramsgate, bemoans Margaret’s lack of a spine more than once. Granted, she’s not quite as bad as Elizabeth, Michael’s very young fiancée, but she spends so much time keeping people outside of her little box, fearful of change, it grated. She does go along with a lot of events that ultimately help her, but it’s almost always against her will. She agrees, because, “There was no graceful way to refuse.” That doesn’t show hidden strength of character, or a desire to change. That shows a weak-willed woman who finds it next to impossible to make a decision for herself. Tell me it’s the period, and I’ll say it doesn’t matter. Not when she is surrounded by women who have no such qualms, who overshadow her every time they enter a room.

Simply put, the entire story lacks passion. Margaret shows next to none for Michael, Michael is surprisingly self-restrained since even getting touched by a man makes Margaret start trembling, and the romance becomes lackluster. The rich details that bring the background to life aren’t nearly enough to compensate for characters that fail to match it. I don’t read to fall in love with a society. I read to fall in love with characters, and in this case, it just didn’t happen.


7/10 – Slow paced, though rich in detail


5/10 – I never believed morphing between the so-called bad boy he is known to be in the beginning – and how he self-identifies for a while – with the man wanting to be good enough for Margaret


3/10 – Boring, sappy, and weak

Entertainment value

3/10 – As interesting as I found the premise, both primary leads bored me so much, I just couldn’t get into the book

World building

9/10 – Great details to create a rich world…but not nearly enough to save the book



1 comment:

Carol Kean said...

**I LOVE THIS NOVEL** and I rarely read romances. I loved the characters and wanted to "hang out" with them as I sipped tea by the fire on a cold winter day. The cast of Smuggled Rose, from the minors to the majors, the servants to the grandmother, were well drawn, delightful, and pleasant company--such a refreshing change from the fictional characters foisted upon me at a writer's workshop, where killers, jaded cops, sex addicts, profanity and such get really old for me.

"No passion"-- or just no acting out the erotic impulses? Self restraint is a virtue (or was), a sign of "strength of character." (So sad that these concepts are outmoded.)

Weak willed heroine? Whiny?? Did we just read the same novel?

It did strike me that Michael turned from bad boy to wannabe-gentle rather suddenly. It didn't ruin the novel for me, though. Perhaps a night of agony in the garden (so to speak) might have helped convince us. The scars on Margaret's arms, the realization that she was innocent, could have caused him a staggering change of heart.

So, the author didn't maximize the opportunity to catalogue his transformation from cad-with-a-mistress to gentleman. Not sufficent reason to pan the novel. Just one trivial issue, an easy fix, if the editors had been on the ball.


Boring? Weak? Wrong. I love how Margaret is calm in a crisis, quick witted, independent, prudent, patient. This is not boring. This is a woman wise for her years. When townspeople attack her, she responds with "turn the other cheek" dignity. I guess Jesus is a real weanie, too.

No passion?? What, just because they wait for the wedding night?

"Michael’s mother, the irrepressible Lady Ramsgate, bemoans Margaret’s lack of a spine more than once." -- well, not as often as she commends Margaret for being sensible and having good manners. I just can't agree with that comment.

This is totally incorrect,

--"That doesn’t show hidden strength of character, or a desire to change. That shows a weak-willed woman who finds it next to impossible to make a decision for herself. "

Margaret has character and strength -- she chooses to do what she deems best for others. She is self sacrificing. That is NOT the same as weak willed. She makes plenty of painful decisions. And some good ones too, like that newspaper announcemnt with the "corrected" engagement.

She makes decision after decision the night Edward arrives, and directs her servants (but doesn't command them or snap at them). She is respectful and caring.

She kills the villain herself, instead of being a damsel in distress rescued by Lord Ramsgate. Her guilt over the act may seem silly, along with her urge to flee or turn herself in, but it's not weak-willed, just thinking too much of others and not enough of herself. Sadly, women like Margaret are all too real. Her brother and father didn't defend her honor, and she has no mother. I commend Amy for her subtle portrayal of women in that era and the limitations imposed on them.

No passion, indeed. I shivered too when Margaret felt Michael's fingertips re-buttoning her dress, his lips at the nape of her neck. In the carriage ride to the village, what tension! She *fights* her desire to lean into his shoulder, and I saw nothing tepid in that scene.

As for Margaret's smuggling, I thought it was cool, and I didn't see it as a "lame" effort to make her interesting.

Again, I love this novel, and I disagree with the bad review.