After his ardent pursuit of her, Emma of Ashford has allowed her heart to thaw and finally agreed to marry Lord Alan Fallsworth. What should be the happiest day of their lives is utterly ruined when a woman claiming to be Alan’s childhood betrothed appears to halt the ceremony. When she was six years old, Lady Carlyn was believed drowned in a horrific accident that killed her mother and left her father irrevocably damaged. But she is apparently alive and well and determined to claim her rights.
Is she truly the woman she claims to be? Emma and Alan think not and they are determined to prove her false before Alan’s father can force the union. Can they accomplish such a daunting feat in time and, more ominously, can they trust the spirit who makes itself known only to Emma?
This started out so strong; a wedding interrupted in a very dramatic fashion, the ghostly voice of a child accompanied by the smell of roses, and a heroine determined to get her man no matter the cost. I was hooked immediately and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! I liked Alan—he was honorable and unwavering in his affections from the jump—and Bryce was sweet and supportive. And it never hurts to add a giant, lovable dog to the cast of characters.
Unfortunately, as the novel unraveled, it started to sag a bit under the weight of seemingly unnecessary exposition and repetitive phrasing. Continually reminding the reader of the same events—such as Emma disliking Bryce when first they met and Emma’s feelings about her father—felt like filler. I wish that page space had been devoted to some kind of action that moved the plot along. There were a few interesting threads that the author seemed to abandon and that was both disappointing and frustrating.
Strong characters are the make-or-break for me in a novel, and Emma’s Dance fell a bit short in this area. Emma herself started to grate on my nerves after awhile. She had the potential to be such a complex character, but overall, I found her less-than-bright and somewhat one-dimensional. She had no ideas of her own, all her plans were prompted by others (usually Bryce or the ghost), and she didn’t always have the most urgent sense of follow-through. I found that I didn’t really blame the child ghost for getting frustrated with her at times; she tended to be a little slow on the uptake and needed to have most things spelled out for her. She’s fickle, too. It didn’t take much to take her from pledging her devotion, patience, and faith in Alan to anger and disbelief in his feelings for her and his motivations. She was easily swayed from one extreme to another and, I’m guessing, the author was using the conflict her vacillating caused to try and ramp up the tension. It worked the first time or two, but the repetitiveness eventually sapped the effectiveness of that tactic.
I found the reveal of the villains to be a little… anticlimactic, and I was so mad when one of them succumbed to the Evil Gloating trope. Why must they reveal their plan to the hero/heroine before leaving them in some wet-paper-bag scenario with the plan to kill them later? (Just once, I’d love to see them keep their mouths shut prior to actually killing an adversary!) Every villain I’ve ever seen or read who does this is inevitably ousted by the escaped protagonist just in the nick of time and Emma’s Dance is no different. I almost put the book down in disgust at that point, but it was close enough to the end that I just went ahead and finished it. I’m glad I did. Although the resolution was predictable, the fake Carlyn was enough of a bitch that I didn’t mind seeing her get what was coming to her.
There are a handful of minor characters in Emma’s Dance that I initially shrugged off as tangential filler, but by the end, I began to suspect that they were being set up for their own stories. If so, I’m intrigued to see where Ms. Hachtel will go with them. As little as we saw of her, I still liked Margaret a great deal and the choices she makes to bring excitement to her life are intriguing. And Lord Seth sound almost edible!
On a more minor note: There are some editorial issues (occasionally inconsistent tense, missing articles, etc) that became more and more distracting as my interest started to wan. Emma’s Dance could use another quick run-through to weed those out.
Bottom line: I have mixed feelings on this one. It wasn’t as exhilarating as I’d hoped, but it was a pretty good read overall. The unique combination of historical romance and paranormal was interesting and I want to know what happens to Margaret and the Mcfarlanes!
Click to purchase: Amazon
by Leslie Hachtel
Release Date: July 21, 2016