So, that title could refer to the hate-to-love relationship in this book, OR it could refer to my feelings about this book itself. I’m new to reviewing, and the reflection process is very interesting to me. My feelings for the book are all positive, and yet my analysis of the book is pretty negative. I don’t know where that leaves me. The more I think about it the more problems I have with it, and I kind of just want to keep the initial afterglow going rather than pick it apart any more.
I have read everything that Sarah MacLean has put out and enjoyed all of it. I stayed up late to read this one and had a smile on my face the whole time. When I finished it I wanted to squeal with happiness and tell everyone I know to read it. MacLean is great at creating strong female characters that sit outside of the norm for their time, but are still believable in the story. And, her heroes are always the equal of the awesome heroine.
The hardest part of a review for me is usually the story summary. Can I possibly write anything that the back blurb doesn’t say? In 1830s England, the Talbot sisters take pride in being the source of all the most outrageous gossip – all except our intrepid heroine, youngest sister, Sophie. Sophie misses the quiet life they had before her coal mining father was made an earl, and she has no use for “society”. After committing a (completely justified and awesome) faux pas at a party, Sophie accidentally escapes not just the party, but all of London, by stowing away in the carriage of the Marquess of Eversley (King). The rest of the story is The Adventures of Sophie and King on the road to his home near the Scottish border.
I LOVE a good road trip story. LOVE. Close quarters forcing witty banter! Character interactions at every turn! Not having to meet society’s strict standards because no one else is around to see! *Sigh* There is a very good chance that if an author has written a road trip story then that story I my favorite of theirs. At first I thought this was the case, but I still stand by two from the prior series being superior (One Good Earl Deserves a Lover and Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover). This one has some hijinks on the road, as is required by the genre, but nothing too out there, and it all helps to develop the characters and their relationship. The Big Gesture at the end was lovely.
Now my problems with it: MacLean has acknowledged that this was a historical take on the Kardashians. I know nothing of this family other than what the covers of the tabloids say at the checkout, nor do I wish to learn more. I found that portion of the story unnecessary and anywhere from uninteresting to outright tedious. She used the family dynamic to set up aspects of Sophie’s character (inferiority complex, feeling of not belonging), but I thought she could have easily done the same without some of the nonsense. I am relieved that the sisters are not the heroines of the rest of the series, although I am interested in learning the oldest sister’s fate. Another issue is that King is kind of an ass – he (sometimes intentionally/mostly unintentionally) says mean things to Sophie and realizes they hurt her, but doesn’t do anything to make her feel better. Like, “Oh, wow, I can tell that didn’t come out right…even though I meant it…but I shouldn’t have said it. Her feelings are hurt, but I’m busy right now.” Anyway, it made me uncomfortable. I really liked Sophie – she learned so much about herself during the course of the story and was really open and honest with herself and what she wanted as she struggled to discover what she really wanted in life.
I’m just going to try and revel in my good feelings about the book overall without letting the critical thinking of reviewing it get in the way.