Several descriptors flitted through my mind as I read Stolen Promise. Overwrought is one, when it came to the emotions. Bipolar is another, particularly with the hero. But what applies most perfectly across the board is WTF.
On the one hand we have spirited gypsy heroine who runs away from her encampment to escape an arranged marriage. Jade already ran away once and, having tasted the pleasures of simple gadje life, she wants it back.
And, on the other hand, we have jerkoid hero Evan Dark, a half-gypsy, American plantation owner who journeys to England to discover his roots, and who responds to a damsel in distress by kidnapping her, tying her up, seducing her, then returning her from whence she ran away. Where it turns out he’s the other half of the arranged marriage.
Of course, then Jade falls in love with Evan (who knows why) even though he hates her for trapping him into marriage, and she and her sister travel to America as his indentured servants, where they meet Evan’s e-e-e-e-evil slut fiancée. But then who are we to cast stones, considering Evan is as much a cheating, sadistic, assaholic scumbag as the woman he’s engaged to marry?
With all that in mind, you can imagine my absolute astonishment when things get better in the last part – and I mean, like, “Crikey dick, it’s a whole bloody new story” kind of better. Once it’s clearly established that Jade and Evan love each other (and who knows why), the tender moments flow and, by golly, it works. Taken alone, these scenes were poignant and touching – and had nothing to do with the idiot characters who come before and after. Ms. Wilkinson also has a way with description, and she obviously believes in putting part of the historical back into historical romance. Jade’s gypsy life seems authentic, and Ms. Wilkinson has also taken some pains to research the language as well as the indenture laws of the time.
It’s just too bad that the good is balanced equally with the bad. Much of the problem lies in writing that is by turns emotional and descriptive, and then awkward and jolting, replete with head-hopping and melodrama and an e-e-e-e-evil gypsy chasing after Jade. There are two stories here, and it’s just too bad the book can’t settle on one.
The author is not without talent, and there are enough such moments in Stolen Promise that I can’t write her off my watch list. But I’ll have to wait, I think.