Dear. Ms. Westin
In my never ending quest to find non Regency historicals, I snatched up your book. And while I’m not sorry I did, I didn’t find it to be everything I’d hoped for.
Our heroine, Lady Anne Gascoigne overhears her beloved fiance offering her virginity to randy King Charles II in the hopes of preferment at court and lucrative Royal land grants in the new world. Horrified, she flees from court. Her protective father decides that hiding her until he can get the marriage contracts annulled is the best plan and finds just the man for the job. Gentleman Johnny Gilbert is sprung from the hangman’s noose at the very last minute and offered the job of keeping Anne safe for two weeks in exchange for passage to Jamaica and a new life. Off they go to his forest retreat where she’s put to work earning her keep until the fateful night she thinks he’s conspiring against her with her fiance. She runs off to London with him trailing behind. Various adventures follow including a brush with the plague, Dutch spies, a wild storm in the channel, near castration, a run in with the fiance (again) and a final HEA.
If I were you and got this cover, I’d be very happy. Period correct, no bare chests or heaving bosoms to be seen. That being said, I’d have to tell readers skip this one unless they’re really interested in reading a Restoration period book. It’s ok, but not great or even outstanding. I could tell almost immediately how it would play out. The heroine is a touch feisty though not overbearingly so, the hero a little arrogant but not outlandishly so, they clash, they squabble some, they fight the attraction but end up by yielding to it. Anne’s fiance is totally evil, Johnny’s followers are loyal to the end, the court is decadent and life isn’t good for the poor. I thought of it as Robin Hood meets Restoration England.
You do make a good attempt to introduce the flavor of the age, throw in the plague and the sea battles against Holland. Charles is trailed by his spaniels, doctors hawk patent medicine and flee the Black Death and women are treated as second class humans to be coerced and controlled by their men. I was really expecting more swashbuckling than I got but maybe you’ll improve on this. I was pleasantly surprised that there was no Puritan-Royalist clashing (the heroine’s deceased mother was Puritan) but other than that mention, there’s nothing. I was a bit put off by the fact that Charles seemed willing to take an unwilling woman but since Anne was never given the chance to say no, maybe he was supposed to have thought her willing? He is shown with more depth than as just a Merrie Monarch. Barbara Castlemaine is an interesting side character as the King’s main mistress and pimp(ette) during her late pregnancy.
But while I did mostly like the book, I can’t really recommend that anyone spend money for this one. Perhaps if you improve (I do plan to try your next book), we’ll have a steady source of Restoration books. It would be a nice change from the standard Regency.