The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine
While I need to give Ms. Fresina credit for a very unique story, I have to say that even the story was very predictable from start to finish. The story was confusing and the characters were often Jane Austen caricatures, but Russ and Sophie were a cute couple despite all that.
Sophia Valentine was an old maid. Due to an accident when she was a nineteen year old debutante on the verge of marriage, she has been living in her brother’s country house under the thumb of his unpleasant wife. In addition, because she succumbed to her fiancé’s ardor, she was caught in a compromising position on a billiards table and her prospects for the future are bleak. So with nothing to lose, Sophie places an ad in a newspaper for a husband.
Lazarus Kane has been looking for Sophie for ten years. She is his angel and his guiding light. When he learns of her advertisement for a husband, he is determined to gain the position himself. Despite the fact that he is not gentry and is a few years younger than Sophie, he knows that he is the only man that could make her happy. Though the two need to battle against the opinion of Sophie’s small community, her brother, and her former fiancé, Sophie and Russ know that the strife will be worth it in the end.
There were a few things about this book that bothered me. For one, most of the secondary characters seemed like recycled Jane Austen characters, but not done as well as Austen. There was the social climbing sister in law, the brother who looks out only for himself, the jilted fiancé whose motives could never be trusted, and the myriad of young country gentry who vied for Russ’s attention just as the older generation scorned and gossiped about him. The characters were so stereotypical that they fell flat on the page and didn’t provide much interest to the reader.
Another thing that bothered me was Russ’s death sentence. From very early on, we learn that Russ has a broken knife lodged in his chest that cannot be removed. If that knife blade moves an inch, he will die immediately and such a thing could happen at any time. What? All this work for the two of them to be together and he is living on borrowed time? To me, that isn’t a sure HEA and for me, all romance novels should have that. If a reader doesn’t have that requirement for their romance novels, then they would probably not be bothered by Russ and Sophie’s situation, but for me, it was a hot button that could be by passed.
Overall, Sophie and Russ were enjoyable, but there were a lot of flaws in the background of their story. To me, those flaws kept me from really enjoying their romance. Oftentimes, it felt like the plot was just getting random new twists thrown in to lengthen the book, when that time would have been better spent with Sophie and Russ having an actual conversation. Though there were, fortunately, no Big Misunderstandings between them, there seemed to be too many random obstacles thrown in their way.
The plot is unique in that the hero is not a Regency lord, but the former gardener and the heroine is about five years older than the hero, and that made for an interesting read. But the distracting background kept me from really enjoying this book. Hopefully, in the future, the author will spend less time trying to recreate Austen’s world and use the creativity she clearly has to create her own.