Source: e-ARC via Netgalley (Thank you, Zebra, for providing me with this free e-copy in exchange for an honest review!).
Genre: historical romance.
The bride and groom cordially request your presence for a wedding at Millworth Manor. . . Guests will include Jackson Quincy Graham Channing, New York City banker, and Lady Theodosia “Teddy” Winslow, wedding planner to the finest families in England.
Introductions shall be followed by light conversation, dancing, flirtation, arguing, reconciliation, and an impulsive kiss that both parties are quite certain they will never repeat. Until they do. A mutually beneficial fake engagement will be accompanied by all manner of very real complications, scandalous revelations, nefarious schemes, and one inescapable conclusion: That true love–unlike the perfect wedding–is impossible to plan. (Goodreads)
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My rating: did not finish (I got to about 60 %).
I have never given up on a review book before – not that there have been that many, but since I don’t have a very big, important blog, the books I get approved for aren’t usually the hot stuff people would kill for (but that’s changing so stay tuned!). So I’m used to gritting my teeth and plowing through, but I just didn’t have the energy to do the same here. I’m still doing a full review because I think that every book deserves as much if I get it for review.
First of all, the Goodreads synopsis spoils everything up until 40% of the book. Congratulations. I hate spoilers in any case but here, this “fake engagement” is actually the first interesting thing that happens in the story, so everything up to that point is really unnecessary. And if the “shocking” secret is what I think it is, it’s not that shocking after all…
I disliked the pacing as well – there was too much telling and not enough showing, and no real conflict, either. There are lots of internal monologues and thinking – and nothing much happens. The characters do a lot of deciding and pondering without ever coming to any real conclusions and taking action. Also, the writing is sometimes rather shoddy, but that may be due to the fact that I read an advanced readers’ copy. This is just one example: “He selected three cigars, a sliver cigar cutter, and matches. A few minutes later all three men had a brandy in one hand, a cigar in the other, and were savoring the enjoyment of good cigars, fine brandy, and excellent companionship.” In case you missed it – they smoked cigars.
But I would have finished the book if those were its only problems, I swear. What made me put it down (or rather, quit it on my Kindle) was the hero. Jackson (Jack) is one of the least interesting romantic heroes I have ever met. Theodora (Teddy), the heroine, is alright, even remarkably emancipated at times (even though she used to have a crush on Jack’s father – awkward!), but Jack embodies everything I dislike in a man.
Romance is a genre of conventions and we usually get (and like) a strong-minded hero who knows what he wants – the heroine! Jack, however, is the epitome of undecisive, lukewarm soft-headedness and I detest these qualities in a person. Add to this the fact that more than half of the novel is written from his POV, and you get something that really rubs me the wrong way.
See, for example, this gem from the mouth of our romantic hero: “I’m not certain you are worth the trouble, Lady Theodora.” – said no hero ever. And then he thinks: “He was the son of a man of adventure and it was past time he had an adventure or two of his own.” Whoa, two adventures?! How positively shocking. He has no sense of purpose, no will to do things and change his life – things just happen to him: “Upon reflection it now seemed that he had been doing little more than marking time, waiting for something to happen even if he hadn’t realized it at the time. Now his entire life had changed.”
The other thing that really bothered me was Jack’s opinion of women (in fact, this is a feeling that permeated the entire novel) – it’s shockingly bad. “But the gracious room was not overly crowded with figurines or other odds and ends that women without husbands to restrain them usually had cluttering about the place.” – this is but one of his thoughts about women and “their place”, as he puts it. I find it hard to believe that Theodora, being a rather independent woman of intelligence, would put up with such crap.
All in all, I can’t say I enjoyed this novel. As always, I am aware of the fact that my opinion is just that – an opinion, but I won’t be recommending A Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding to my readers.
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Have you read this book? How about anything else by Victoria Alexander? Are her other books worth reading?
I’d love to hear your thoughts so don’t hesitate to share! :)