Excellent Premise — Delivery Fails Miserably
When I first saw the Table of Contents, I thought this late Regency romance was going to be a fun ride. Who could resist chapter titles such as “Fops Aplenty” or “Back to the Baying Hounds”? Of course, I had initially been intrigued by the title. Back in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, women didn’t go on Grand Tour’s of the continent like young men did. (BTW, as this late Regency, there are no worries about Napoleon.)
Unfortunately, I was just about immediately turned off by the story itself once I started reading it, on at least four fronts: a childish heroine, a data dump start, little and poorly written dialogue, and overblown narrative writing.
Abby Westerhall (the heroine) is the rather spoiled and somewhat conceited daughter of a minor baron. She is apparently bored with all the men in England after three seasons and further determines she will not marry until she sees some of the world. Her mother acquiesces and takes her on a Grand Tour including France and Italy–in part because she hopes exposure to a greater world will show her daughter her own limitations.
For the first 6% or so, the book is all narrative prose; I think there might have been a line of dialogue that was referenced but not shown in a scene. The prose is heavy for a romance and laced with strange words (some of which I couldn’t find defined on the internet). The voice of the narrator is strangely distant as it looks into the minds and follows the actions of the characters–what I would call an omniscient viewpoint gone wrong. There are screens and screens of telling (not truly showing) about Abby’s background, her world, and her run-ins with men she believes are beneath her notice.
What dialogue there is after that highly narrative first 6% is very stilted; no character speaks naturally. For Abby, imagine a breathy Regency England version of Scarlett O’Hara. It was grating to read “oh, mother!” or “maman” constantly. Fiddle-dee-dee. The text, too, was rife with grammatical and punctuation errors–rampant with far too many commas in places but missing crucial ones as well.
The premise had HUGE promise. I love the idea of a young Regency lady having a Grand Tour like the young men of the time often did. In the hands of a skilled author, the concept of this book would have been a breath of fresh air in a genre that is often afflicted with sameness. Unfortunately, that promise was not delivered.
I received a free advance copy of this book, but this–obviously–did not affect my review.