Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Review: Karen Robards’ LOVING JULIA – A Victorian, Yes, But Not the “My Fair Lady” You Were Thinking of.
Set in 1841, this is the story of Jewel Combs, a 16-year-old street urchin who picks the pocket of an earl’s younger brother who is stabbed by one of Jewel’s companions. The earl’s brother dies from his wound, but not before he marries Jewel to repay her for taking care of him.
When Jewel goes to see the young man’s family, to inform them she is his widow, she is confronted with his handsome, yet cold older brother, Sebastian, Earl of Moorland. While he looks at Jewel with disdain, he decides to make Jewel a project and turn her into a lady to spite his cruel mother.
Renamed “Julia Stratham", Jewel is no longer the skinny, Cockney-speaking waif, but a well-cared-for beautiful woman the earl cannot resist, despite she is half his age.
What I liked: Robards did her research into the era and gets the Victorian cant just right. The book is well written, the scenes are vividly described and the characters come to life on the page. Who could not love Jewel, aka Julia, as she fights to survive and the cool earl who thinks to shape her to his liking? The story kept me turning pages, despite some issues.
What I had trouble with: Young Jewel/Julia was enthralled with Sebastian in the way a teenager engages in the hero worship of a handsome, older man, who begins to see her for the lady she could become. When he seduces her—after she’d been overindulging in wine, I might add—she freely gives herself to him even though she has fought off all other men who tried to have her when she lived on the streets. Sebastian takes her without being aware she was a virgin (a bit odd, that, since she had blood on her but he apparently did not). Because of her passion, he thinks her a whore. Then, he abruptly leaves her only to later decide he must have her, so he tries to set her up as his new mistress. She declines in anger (which I liked) but then she allowed him to seduce her (again). That had me rolling my eyes.
I should say at the outset that I am a fan of Robards’ historical romances. But this book was difficult to rate. I liked the storyline and the writing, but the heroine’s giving in to her “whimpering passion” time and time again detracted from the strong woman I was hoping she had grown to be. Still, there’s lots of excitement and a good ending.