This review contains spoilers.
Page 242*… It’ll be a scene that I’ll always think of first when this book comes to mind. It’s the scene where any hope of a real relationship burned to cinder in my eyes and my stomach dropped through the floor. Not cool. Not cool at all.
What’s so bad about this scene is how much it blindsided me. I just did not see it coming. On page 231* I started to get a bad feeling, but before that? No. I knew that the intrigue had changed because a new character had come to town, but I still (naively) thought it was all an act. I mean, this is a Romance with a capital “R!” That’s what I get for making assumptions, eh? My heart ripped out of my chest and a sick feeling in my stomach.
I suppose it wouldn’t have been so bad if the author didn’t write so well. But she does, and I couldn’t help it, I was sucked in. I cared about these characters and was really looking forward to seeing it all work out. The author totally blew me away with her story and her characters in the first half. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting the depth and complexity of character that I was presented here. It was a very welcome discovery.
Grace was a fabulous character. Her life and her fears and her strength were stunningly portrayed and I could feel her pain bleed through the pages in her moments of despair before she rebuilt herself into the perfect wife. The very fact that she never complained and never asked for sympathy made it impossible not to feel for her. She had no illusions about her looks or her attraction to the other sex so she never had the self confidence to demand more. More affection. More time. More respect. At times it was frustrating that she wouldn’t show more than just her shell and wouldn’t demand to be treated well, but I was willing to be patient because it was so understandable.
I really enjoyed the way this book began. It felt like it was two real people in a real situation. Diccan liked Grace, but he wasn’t attracted to her in the slightest. He was actually pretty horrified when he thought about their future together. That didn’t magically change. They had to make the effort to get to know one another. Slowly Diccan became attracted to her and actually enjoyed spending time with her.
The writing and depth of character reminded me of Meredith Duran—who I love—so I was pretty excited to see them resolve their differences. It was a bumpy road in the beginning, and they didn’t change their ways easily, but it wasn’t so bumpy that I doubted that things would work out between them. Due to circumstances Diccan couldn’t be open with Grace and couldn’t spend as much time with her as I was hoping he would, but when they were together I loved watching them slowly inch toward being a real, caring couple.
And then came page 242*.
That was the moment that the death knell sounded on my belief in their relationship. It was over for me. Even more than I do not like to read about cheating in the past in a Romance, I loathe reading about in graphic detail in the moment. That is not something that I can accept in a relationship, so all believability went out the window for me. I felt…depressed and sad and really, really, really angry. I suppose that’s a sign that the author did a good job sucking me in, but right about now I’m wishing she hadn’t. Especially since the cheating didn’t stop when she found out. It continued on well after that even though she knew about it and he knew she knew.
I ended up losing all respect for her character and it makes me sad. She was so strong and so likable that it was depressing to see her disregard Diccan’s cheating and disrespect and sleep with him with nary a protest, even after he told her that the home that she treasured wasn’t hers anymore, it was his. I pitied her and thought she was pathetic. Her actions twisted my original admiration of her until I almost hated her for being so weak.
Maybe I could have given this a higher grade if the end had at least tried to make up for what Grace went through. But it didn’t. Grace continued being weak and forgave him in no time at all. It was all just too easy and it made me mad.
I don’t think this book will bother everyone. I actually think it will garner quite a few fans, because from page 242* on the resemblance to Meredith Duran ceased and the resemblance to Sherry Thomas took its place. And there are quite a lot of Thomas fans out there, full of people who love “edgier” books. After reading some spoilers about the first book in this series, Barely a Lady, I have the feeling that Dreyer is doomed to be just like Sherry Thomas for me. Someone whose writing I love, but whose storylines I hate.
*It was that page number in the ARC.
She found herself standing before the mirror above the little vanity staring at the ghost-pale woman who stared back and wondering whether she would ever find her way past what she was. A plain woman. A useful woman. A competent nurse and loyal friend. A woman who hungered for intensity and settled for silence.