I am always on the lookout for a good colonial romance. After reading Dangerous Indenture, I am still on the lookout for a good colonial romance, because Dangerous Indenture certainly wasn’t one. Romance fans know to never judge a book by its title, but this book is just as ludicrous and old-school as you’d stereotype a book called Dangerous Indenture to be.
Shauna Farrow emigrated from Ireland as a servant whose indenture was bought by the Stewart family. After the “mysterious” (read: obviously murder) death of two previous servants, nobody else will work for the Stewarts. She falls in love with Ashton, the bastard son of the family, while evading rape attempts and beatings from his brother Colin, and attempting not to provoke the temper of Colin’s unstable wife Minerva.
Ashton is a loser. He drinks too much, spending nights passed out in brothels. He condescends to Shauna when she offers to help with his bookkeeping struggles. Despite knowing that there’s been a murder and that Shauna is in peril, both Ashton and Shauna go along their merry way, taking entire chapters off to read dirty books and boink.
This book had a horrifying attitude towards sex and violence. Colin beat up Shauna and attempted to rape her. A few pages later, “Ashton glared at Colin… He had never directly confronted Colin about his brutal attack on Shauna, but he was waiting for a reason to throttle him. One day, the puny little prick would push him too far.” I guess he’s waiting for Colin to actually rape Shauna, and then he’ll get serious?
While Colin is a villain for assaulting Shauna, his assaults on another maid, Lila, are accepted, I suppose because at one point she slept with him consensually. Or because she’s contributing to adultery? I don’t know, but while Ashton admires Shauna’s enthusiasm for sex, he calls Lila “a tramp and a liar… a shipload of desperate sailors wouldn’t go near that slut for fear of disease.” Gee. Some hero.
And some heroine: “A woman screamed downstairs, and [Shauna] jumped. Who was that? The scream sounded short, as if it were cut off. Was Colin forcing himself on Lila again? Minerva had ordered her to stay in her room, and she wasn’t about to disobey now. She dipped the quill in the ink and finished her letter.” Remind me never to count on Shauna for backup. Or Ashton, whose threats to Colin apparently only apply if Colin beats and rapes Shauna, not if he beats and rapes some other chick. Whatever, she was probably asking for it anyway.
The writing is not great. Shauna’s supposed to have an Irish accent, which seems mostly to consist of using “ya” instead of “you,” and “wasna” instead of “was not.” At one points, the author, writing from Shauna’s perspective, wonders, “Did Minerva really kill Sarah Purdy? If she did, how come she wasn’t in jail?” The mangling of conditional tenses and modern slang here made me want to get out my red pen and draw on my reader – “Had Minerva really killed Sarah Purdy? If so, why hadn’t she been imprisoned?”
There was a little – very little – interest in waiting for the murder plot and business problems to be resolved. Ashton’s family, and even Lila, had a degree of depth to them. The book also had half of an enlightened perspective on sexuality (Shauna). Unfortunately, that was overshadowed by Lila’s half, which seems to have been written by Internet trolls. This book squeaks out a D-, but I do not recommend it.