I curse this book for breaking my streak of writing reviews within about a day or so of finishing the books. This book has singlehandedly caused me to be six reviews behind, and counting. Grrrr.
Mostly I think this is because when I feel so apathetic about a book, neither really liking or disliking it, it’s hard to work up enough energy to actually sit down and think up things to say. And I feel doubly bad about that in this case since I did receive the book for free.
Honor Bound is a historical romance novel set just after the French Revolution, and its heroine, Jeannette Boucher, is the daughter of French nobility who barely escaped the guillotine by fleeing to England. She marries a wealthy English lord in exchange for security for her impoverished family, but on the wedding night she learns that her husband is impotent, and in order to secure an heir for himself, he’s persuaded a few friends of his into their marriage bed. Jeannette flees into the night, ending up a stowaway on an English navy ship, and in the care of Lt. Treynor Crawford, a cynical bastard. She disguises herself as a boy and plans to spend the two day trip to London as quietly as possible. Of course things go wrong, and of course the two of them are attracted to one another, and blah blah you know how this goes if you’ve ever read a romance novel at all.
Before I get to all the stuff I had problems with, I do want to say that I was impressed by the level of historical detail included here. Usually in this kind of book, the violence is toned down, and any connection to actual history is almost non-existent. But Novak actually makes things feel pretty real. The ship smelled and its inhabitants were dirty. When a battle occurs midway through, it has actual stakes. She also had a good grasp on how soldiers of the day might actually behave.
But verisimilitude only extended so far. Her characters and the story they are participating in are about as cliché as you can get for this type of book. Everything was predictable. The hero was tortured by his mysterious bastard past. The jealous rival who acts like an idiot just so our heroes can have someone to play off of. The heroine even had the requisite purple eyes. Sometimes cliché is okay (even welcome!) as long as it’s aware of what it’s doing, but the tone of the thing read like it was taking itself entirely too seriously, and like it was unaware that everything it was doing had been done before ad nauseum. And to make matters worse, it didn’t even give us the one thing we’d been waiting for the entire book. There was NO SEX.
And look, I’ve read chaste romance novels before. Even enjoyed them and list some of them among my favorites! But this was not one of those. There was everything BUT sex here. If you’re going to bother describing almost sex (you know, nakedness, groping, humping, all that fun stuff), and your characters themselves have no moral objection to it, at least do your readers the favor of giving them what you promise and tease throughout and let your stupid characters bone already.
Anyway, I still plan on checking out Novak’s Through the Smoke sometime in the future. I had that book on my to-read list long before I won this one. I really hope it’s a better example of her work than this was. All in all, it wasn’t really bad, but if you’re looking for a great romance novel, I’d definitely recommend other books long before this one.