Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Non-Laughter Review: THE HEIR

Grace Burrowes
Historical Romance

Sourceboooks, December 2010

Premise: Housekeeper with secrets and responsibility driven heir to an old title develop feelings for one another.

Cover: Title - Short, succinct, ties in well with the next titles in the series (of which 'The Soldier' will be #2). Art - pretty blue, pretty lady, yet attention inexorably drawn to mondo large man-nipple.

What Works: The writing in this novel is a cut above average of what this reader has seen of the genre. There is many a well-turned sentence, deft bit of description, and enjoyable dialogue interchange, so much so that the author can be forgiven for her most overused word: 'lemonade'.

Apprentice Writer really liked the ending, and LOVED the hero's brothers. They each have different strengths and challenges to deal with, which will without question be explored in follow up novels, but what this reader liked the best about them was how they supported one another.

And as a former psychology student, AW very much enjoyed the how the process of mental/emotional change in various characters was depicted. It reflected the reality that very few individuals are overwhelmingly 'good' or 'bad'. Most are a mix of both, and can be coaxed one way or another on the continuum depending on stimulus, underlying personality traits, and sheer luck of what they may encounter in any given day.

What Doesn't: This is a story for readers who like character-driven novels. It takes a long time for things to get going, and even at the height of the erstwhile suspense, the action is over pretty quickly. This is not necessarily a flaw - Apprentice Writer quite likes 'quiet' stories, especially when well-written. It was more a matter of there being a fair amount of buildup for the housekeeper's secret aspect such that AW had a bit of a 'That's it?' reaction once it was resolved, intensified by a brief TSTL moment on the part of the heroine.

There is a lot of talk. This can be interpreted both as positive (it's really nice to see how various characters become close to one another) and negative (can verge on 'telling rather than showing'). The characters also seem remarkably insightful about themselves and others. This had an almost humorous effect for AW, as it was the opposite end of the spectrum of how the main characters behaved in the book she had read immediately prior. To be honest, it was kind of a refreshing change.

And finally, the big one: how much the reader enjoys this book may depend on what they define as 'romantic', and/or how skilled they are at division of real life and literature. Because the H/H relationship development is a textbook case of sexual harassment. Given the power imbalance between the main characters, the situations the hero constructs, and the way he tries to persuade to certain courses of action, the fact that there is no physical coercion involved becomes secondary.

It does help that the feelings the couple build for one another are so genuine, and that the heroine is utterly unintimidated by the hero and really makes him work for the happy end. But it could have been a much different (i.e. uglier) situation if she had felt obliged to fake such emotion.

From personal experience, AW is aware that such reality/story division can be achieved. She is personally appalled by infidelity following some instances in her extended family, yet somehow, much to her surprise, she found the characters in 'Same Time, Next Year' sympathetic and the story touching. Go figure. What she is saying is: sexual harassment is a hot-button issue for some people, so the reader may want to evaluate if this is the case for him/her and act accordingly when evaluating whether to read this book.

A thoughtful, well-written historical romance that will appeal to readers who enjoy exploration of family dynamics. Readers who prefer 'sweet' level love scenes should be aware that these tend to be on the explicit side. AW will look forward to reading the hero's brothers' stories.



Rachel said...

You had me at "mondo large man-nipple."

M. said...