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I recently read The Lady in Red by Kelly Bowen. For a novella–a genre that usually doesn’t work for me–it was very good. I’d give it a B. It would be B+, but the author did something with the heroine at the end that knocked off the + part of the rating.

There is a small spoiler in here, for those who want to avoid them. Not sure if I can use an html spoiler tag, so I’ll warn you now.

What I liked:

–The interesting plot. Lady Charlotte Beaumont is determined to be a painter, and a painter who paints more than just the demure little paintings of roses and such that society would confine a lady to painting. This novella tells how she achieves her artistic aims by disguising herself as a man. (That’s not a spoiler–it’s in the publicity blurb.) I thought the “woman disguised as a man” trope was successful in this instance, and the story, overall, worked from beginning to end. I never lost interest.

–The heroine, who I think is in her early 20s, is determined, confident in her art, and pretty unruffled and low-key for a great deal of the story. She is refreshingly different from so many of your usual historical romance heroines.

What I did not like:

–Once the jig is up, and Flynn (the hero) realizes that “Charlie” is a woman, insta-love rears its ugly head. And for a short while the love story veers off into by-the-numbers territory. Fortunately, the story gets back on track before long, as far as the overall adventure goes.

–Near the end of the novella, Charlie laments that she failed to reinvent and redeem herself as she had hoped to. Oh, sure, her masterful artwork was a success. She has another assignment and no doubt a bright future. But see, she is a failure because her relationship with Flynn failed. Flynn dumped her due to a lie she told (or rather, a withholding of some information on her part), but which she was totally justified in telling!

At least, that’s my interpretation of why she felt she was a failure. Did I misunderstand why Charlie ended up so down on herself? Was it because of something other than her failed relationship?

Anyway, that is why I knocked the plus sign off my rating for this book. (It was going to be B+.) Charlie’s sudden willingness to base her self-worth, her sense of her value, on a man’s opinion of her did not fit with the woman we came to know earlier. Plus, it was really Flynn’s own shortcomings that forced Charlie to withhold a bit of information about herself. It’s problematical as to whether they would have been able to successfully complete their assignment, had Charlie revealed the withheld information.

TBH, Bowen just about ruined the novella for me by turning Charlotte from a strong, courageous woman into your run-of-the-mill “I’m nothing without a man” heroine. Still the rest of the story was worth a B rating. YMMV