Once Persuaded, Twice Shy

Grade : B-
Grade : B-
Book type : Contemporary Romance
Sensuality : Subtle
Review Date : March 11, 2024
Published On : 02/2024

Reading Melodie Edwards’ twist on Persuasion is like watching a firecracker faintly, intermittently spark but never totally combust – not riveting, but lovely enough that you don’t regret the experience.

Anne Elliot lives in a small Canadian tourist town, where she runs the Elysian Theatre Festival, “a . . . cultural icon, with three theaters and ten productions running year-round”. It’s more than a little ironic that a no-drama woman makes her career in the dramatic arts. But after years of quiet dutifulness, drama comes to her neck of the woods. Ben Wentworth appears from the depths of her romantic history, and the man-bunned hiker guy she loved is now a venture capitalist. His aunt and uncle have retired in Anne’s town and the Elysian wants to buy part of their property – and Ben is his family’s business guy. Anne suddenly gets to negotiate a professional deal and an emotional minefield.

The truth is—forgive the pun—this book persuaded me into liking it. The very best romance novels combine the familiar and the original. The tropes are well known to the returning reader, but the author’s distinct style makes it delightfully surprising. The first half of Once Persuaded, Twice Shy is a little too familiar – and it has nothing to do with the fact that it’s a retelling. Apparently the town (Niagara-on-the-Lake) is a real place, but the way Edwards depicts it makes it feel like a generic Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. And some of the secondary characters prompt a ‘Haven’t-I-met-you-or-your-nearly-identical-first-cousin-in-every-other-small-town-romance’ feeling. The writing is fairly banal, with the characters sometimes making comments like “What the hell? I mean, really, what the hell?” and having exchanges that could have been cut in favor of summations like ‘X told Y to have apple cider’ instead of forcing the reader to slog through the discourse about the necessity of consuming apple cider.

What makes this book is the characterization of the hero and heroine and the antiqueness of the atmosphere. Anne and Ben have a genuine humility to them, and their relationship has an aura of gentleness mixed with potent affection that feels authentic to the source characters. By the end, it was impossible for me to not wish them well. Also, the slightly distant third-person narration captures the spirit of the tone in Austen’s nineteenth-century tale, and is very peaceful and lulling (think the shhhhh from a loving parent to a sleepy child). Once Persuaded, Twice Shy won’t keep you up at night – but in this case I mean that as a compliment.

Charlotte Elliott

Part-time cowgirl, part-time city girl. Always working on converting all my friends into romance readers ("Charlotte, that was the raunchiest thing I have ever read!").
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