Generally speaking, I really enjoy a forbidden/ impossible romance story. I’m also a fan of the trope of a lower class hero in love with an unattainable woman. There’s so much longing and pining and angst. So believe me when I say this book had the potential to make me swoon. And at times, it hit the mark, with good sexual tension and hefty dollops of hopelessness. But there were just as many things that did not work for me here… maybe more misses than hits.
It would suit Monica just fine to never return home. She loves her life as an actress in Bath as much as she hated being part of the local gentry and living under her father’s command. She and her family have been estranged ever since her father tried to force her into a marriage with an abusive man. Years ago, he gave her the choice to marry or stay away from him and the rest of her family. But now her father is dead and her sister Jane has summoned her back. Someone has to help settle the estate and look after their mother.
Thomas was Monica’s first love. Unfortunately, he was also the family groom and a completely unacceptable match. Seeing him again, though, brings back all of her old feelings. She wants him as much as she ever did –maybe more. It’s also just as hopeless as it ever was. He is still a servant and she, his mistress. What’s more, she hates the land where she grew up, and there is no place Thomas would rather be.
I liked the dynamic between these two. They clearly yearned for each other, but each had valid reasons for wanting a different kind of life than the other. The sexual tension is great and when they finally succumb to their desires, it’s very satisfying. I like that Monica knows what she wants her life to be, but she tries to balance her needs with the needs of her family’s tenants.
Unfortunately, I can’t stop there. On the writing end, I felt like the pacing was uneven, with some slow spots in the first half. I was very tempted to skim. And the language didn’t feel genuine. If I have to think about the way the author is talking, I am taken out of the story. (ex. In describing their first kiss, Thomas ruminates, “She tasted of strength and fortitude, edged with the soft scent of woman and feminine wisdom.” What?)
I felt like Monica’s abuse backstory was spotty. There was enough there to let me know she was beaten, but too much was unexplored: like why he beat her and how he was caught. I also expected this storyline to come back around before the book was over and it just faded away. I also had issues with the sister Jane. She ran hot and cold with Monica, but seemed to hint about a man in her life, only (again) for the storyline to drop without being really addressed. But perhaps the worst thing the book had going for it was the abrupt ending. Obviously, we knew someone would have to bend, but the way one of the characters completely drops how they felt about their future in order to marry the other was very… convenient. If this were the resolution, it could have happened much sooner in the book and saved us all a lot of time. There seemed no real build to how we got to the decisions each character made. They just decided to make it work, so they did. Ugh.
Not terrible, but not great either. It didn’t make me feel.
*ARC provided by publisher for review
Click to purchase: Amazon
What a Woman Desires
by Rachel Brimble
Release Date: January 5, 2015
Publisher: Lyrical Press