Publication date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises Australia
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Two sisters, Evangeline and Angela Vernon, are expected for a betrothal to the Duke of Manchester and the Earl of Cheshire, respectively. They, as daughters of the Earl of Upton, are not only the crème of the ton but possess both beauty and fortune. By all rights, their lives should be good, except that Angela is deeply in love with her sister’s betrothed, and Evangeline in love with a man who exists only in her dreams!
The latter point may seem confusing, but as the author intended for a supernatural twist, Evangeline was romanced by a man who only appeared in her dreams, yet both were able to see, speak, and touch each other as if they resided in the planes of reality. While fantastical, I found Evangeline’s developing love with her dream suitor much more interesting than that of Angela’s, for that Angela was too much a coward to take a chance for her own love.
“Angela shruggled. ‘It is what mother wants. Who am I to argue?’
Evangeline erupted, ‘We are speaking of your future husband! Of the man who will share in all your triumphs and miseries. We are talking of your lifelong partner! How can you leave the matter in mother’s selfish hands?’” (Loc123/1194)
While Angela moped in her self-imposed misery of having the one she loves being betrothed to her sister, she placed her mother’s dictations above her own happiness, and that is something which I found annoying; either stop being a coward and pursue your love, or step aside and put on a façade of happiness for your sister, neither of which she did as she remained a neutral – or more aptly put, an indifferent – party to this marriage affair. On the other hand, Evangeline was courageous and brave enough to defy her mother’s wishes and suggests to her sister that she take the Earl of Cheshire as a husband, in order to give her sister the Duke of Manchester. This was not only an act of sisterly love, but also one of self-sacrifice for Evangeline’s love was the man in her dreams, yet she was willing to give up her love for her sister, something Angela had not the courage to do.
The villain of this story is their mother, whose actions seem drastic for her situation and her behavior logically incoherent. Even when Evangeline decided to switch her betrothal target with her sister – still maintaining both the Duke of Manchester and the Earl of Cheshire as prospective husbands – the mother is painted in such a villainous light as to detract the remaining realism from the story.
“You are a burden to your family. Even if we are wealthy, our family could’ve used a few alliances. Additional power and wealth would have been welcomed. Yes, our name will be united with Manchester’s, but we will never be in the Earl of Cheshire’s family! You will rot and wither away in your father’s home!” (Loc 901/1194)
Does she not seem like an evil witch archetype? For a countess who is wealthy and has contracted two matches for her daughters, it is highly unbelievable that she should be so villainous a character; the reason is precisely that the story required a villain, a conflict if you will, but it is highly unnecessary to paint a character so repulsive. Equally incoherent with her behavior is when everything becomes resolved and both daughter happy, when she explains her wish was in her daughters’ best interests. It is simply too improbable given her hateful behavior throughout the story.
I was very mindful that this story is a novella, but even within the confines of a novella, there are limits to plausible characterizations and this, I am sorry to say, was rather disappointing. The prose and dialogue was well written, but for the flaws in characterizations I would rate this novella higher. As a debut author, Katherine Givens has certainly piqued my interest, and I will look nonetheless look forward to her next book.
Rating: 3.5 tulips
*Review copy from the publisher via Netgalley