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The Marquess' Muse*

The Muse is Not Amusing

Charity, the heroine, is the daughter of an earl who became embroiled in scandal some years ago that resulted in the loss of her reputation. Retreating from London to Scotland, she marries her older brother’s friend. They move back to London to run his father’s bookshop. Due to injuries that became infected, her husband dies not long after the birth of their daughter. Into their bookshop, now run by just her, comes an old friend and her first love.

Will they want to rekindle the old flame between them? Can he forgive her for her part in the scandals so long ago? Will she want to maintain her independence, which she seems to enjoy? What does Charity truly want for herself and her daughter?

This had to be one of the most poorly written books I’ve read in a very long time. So much was wrong in it on so many fronts I hardly know where to begin. Charity seems to be outrageous just to be outrageous; we don’t really understand what the earlier scandal was about for a long time, though it is talked about and alluded to constantly. Something so pivotal for both the hero and the heroine should have been explained more upfront (or added piece by piece more quickly) so that the character’s actions and thoughts in the current plotline don’t seem so strange. There was one claim the author made in the prologue that seemed outrageous and made me go, “Huh??” So far as I know–and I could be wrong–unless her parentage or legitimacy is in question, society cannot take away the appellation of “Lady” from a woman who is the daughter of an earl!

Her previous husband is seen only briefly in the prologue before they marry; he seems to serve just to give her a bookshop and a child; I don’t really see how this backstory adds anything to the main story, which is all about scandals, lies, coverups, etc. We know nothing of the hero-to-be until he shows up in the store. Then a partial backstory is given from both perspectives, but it is more confusing than illuminating. I’ll admit: I got frustrated with the story. The plot and backstory just seemed to be a jumble of ideas that never gelled. I don’t mind if an author tantalizes and teases, releasing tidbits along the way of a couple’s shared history, but this did not feel like that at all. The whole setup just rings completely false, and it didn’t improve as the book progressed.

There were many problems with language as well. The writing is not only stilted and unnatural, but the author used words and phrases in dialogue and narrative that people just don’t say or think . . . or are just flat out wrong. I’ve never heard lace called “blond” to describe its color, and the use of “stay” for “stays” is hard on the ear if you regularly read historical fiction. I can guess what “children born in [London’s] dredges” mean, but that word should not be used here. Several times the hero talks about “gentlemen of my peerage” instead of saying “my peers” or “the peerage,” either of which would most likely sound better depending on the context. And what–precisely–is “constitution of character” as it relates to post pregnancy? One’s body changes during pregnancy but hopefully not one’s character. Sometimes the wording was shockingly modern, like when she described her husband-to-be as “her brother’s mate, but she fancied him.” Another time, she used, “we are in this together,” which doesn’t sound very historical to me.

Here are a couple of lines that struck me odd as a nurse: “Altair was injured enough as it was with sutures in his side and a broken leg. There was no doubt that once his spine healed completely he would return to the front lines.” The way those lines follow each other (and there was no prior mention of a spinal injury), it made it seem like the spine and side injury related. The way she attempted to portray a Scottish accent didn’t make sense. Here’s a line: “So, ya’ gonna come ta’ London with me after we marry…” Apostrophes are typically used to show the lack of a letter that makes a sound; this is not the case here. The most commonly used copyediting stylebook for novels in the United States declares that a word like “marquess” should not only have the possessive apostrophe but an s following it (marquess’s, not marquess’); so the title of the book itself seems to have a punctuation mistake. Several times dialog tags and other phrases/sentences around dialogue weren’t punctuated correctly.

I cannot recommend this book. I had a hard time sticking with it. Sometimes I think I only did so to see what strange things the author would have the characters say or do next. Because of the problems with plot, character, and language, I suggest forgetting this book and finding another Regency one that will be more compelling and enjoyable.

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