It’s been a busy winter here, but I’m sticking with the TBR challenge. This month’s theme is Ugly Ducklings. Even though my TBR pile is huge and AAR’s Special Title listing on the subject is also fairly large, I just couldn’t find anything on the list that was in my stack. So I started digging -and came up with One Unashamed Night by Sophia James. This one is a Harlequin Historical from August 2010, set in 1820s England. It started off slowly for me and it’s uneven enough that I don’t think I could recommend it to others, but I’m personally glad I stuck with it in the end. If I had read this book for review, it would have been about a C+ for me.
Though I’m usually on the hunt for non-Regency England(or in this case, during the actual reign of George IV) settings in my historical reading, I initially bought this book because the plot description intrigued me. The book opens as the hero and heroine are travelling by coach. The vehicle overturns, leaving the passengers stranded in the snow. Taris Wellingham decalres his intention to ride ahead and Beatrice-Maude Bassingstoke declares she will go with him. Taris is impressed by Bea’s quiet strength and intelligence, and the sound of her voice appeals to him. When the two end up taking shelter in a barn, the night ends in a very passionate interlude. When morning comes, and Lord Wellingham’s family arrives to rescue him, he leaves Bea without paying her much attention. She assumes he has no interest in her, and when he passes by her in London later on without acknowledging her, she believes that their night together meant nothing to him.
However, unknown to Beatrice, Taris has gradually started losing his sight. He can see the world only in silhouette. A series of contrivances brings the two together once more by the middle of the book, and after entirely too many misunderstandings, they finally start sorting things out. One thing about this story that is nice is that the hero and heroine both have imperfections of various sorts, but they learn to work together and complement one another very well. Beatrice-Maude knows that she does not fit Society’s definition of a conventional beauty and having also suffered much past unhappiness, she has little faith in her ability to be attractive to a man. Taris, now going blind, struggles with his own feelings of inadequacy and limits his dealings with the outside world while also attempting to hide his blindness. Bea’s personality draws Taris to her and he finds her beautiful while Bea sees Taris as a person rather than simply seeing his medical condition. It’s a good match.
Unfortunately, the first part of this romance is slow going indeed and what could have been a lovely, emotional story gets hidden in a sea of stylistic sins including the dreaded telling instead of showing. In addition, for whatever reason, the author is very fond of exclamation points. I have no idea why! But they’re everywhere! And it almost makes your eyes bleed! Between that and the contrived feeling of the various events that bring Taris and Beatrice-Maude together throughout the first half of the book, I thought this might end up being my first DNF of the year. However, I persevered and was ultimately glad I did. The exclamation points continued throughout the novel, but there are fewer of them once the story really gets cranking. In addition, the last parts of the book were so poignant that I ended up being glad I kept reading if only because I got those chapters as a payoff. If you think you can make it through that first half of the book, this one might be an option for you, but it does take a fair amount of patience to deal with all those exclamations.
– Lynn Spencer