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The Widow's Redeemer - Philippa Jane Keyworth

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Paperback: 302 pages / Publisher: Madison Street / Published: 1 Dec 2012

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      05.05.2013 13:42
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      This is not the path to redemption!

      Letty Burton has been widowed young and though she's now destitute, she has at least been freed from a loveless and sometimes violent marriage. During a visit to her sister-in-law she first encounters the arrogant Viscount Beauford and she's not impressed. When she later accompanies her mother-in-law to London to enjoy the Season, she again meets the Viscount and finds him every bit as arrogant and supercilious as she had on first acquaintance. But it seems that fate may have a different future for Letty than that of a lady's companion which she currently inhabits.

      My opinion:

      I downloaded this book as a freebie for my Kindle after reading several 5 star reviews and I expected an historical novel that was above the usual run-of-the-mill fare. I should have known better than to believe those reviews as I've been caught out that way before, and I'm afraid I can't agree with the majority of the reviewers. I found this to be one of the most banal stories I've ever read and I'm unsure why the author even bothered to write it in the first place. It certainly doesn't bring anything new to the genre or even tell much of a story.

      Although the book is set in 1815, the tale is one more akin to something from the Victorian era as it certainly bears the hallmarks of the worst Victorian melodrama but without any drama. I found the story contrived, full of unnecessary minutiae, totally unoriginal and nothing much happened. I struggled to finish it, in fact.

      The heroine is a rather mixed concoction of the worst of Jane Eyre with a dash of the Misses Becky Sharp and Elizabeth Bennet and her personality is just as interchangeable. Although the author attempts to give Letty some semblance of feistiness, at least when she's verbally sparring with the hero, her general demeanour is more that of a meek, godly and gently raised young woman so beloved of Victorian writers but which I personally find irritating beyond bearing.

      Letty is a vicar's daughter, so she's been gently reared but isn't from the top drawer of society and much is made of her lowly status, despite the fact she hasn't done anything to attract such disdain. She actually behaves far better than her aristocratic superiors most of the time. This didn't make me like her any better. I just couldn't take to Letty at all. She was just too much of a goody-two-shoes, quietly accepting her straightened circumstances and her bad marriage and being kind and generous to everyone. I must be as violently inclined as Letty's dead husband because it just made me want to slap her!

      I could understand her antagonism towards the hero - who was less than heroic throughout, I might add. Viscount Beauford was incredibly rude to Letty on their first meeting. They literally bump into each other and despite him being a 'gentleman', his reaction to this very slight incident was way over the top and a total contrivance. This two dimensional character has been given the hauteur of Mr Darcy, the irascibility of Mr Rochester, the bland inanity of every hero who ever bestrode the pages of a Mills & Boon romance book and yet has been granted none of the charm nor the appeal of any of them.

      The secondary characters, of which there are many, are equally stereotypical and in some cases totally superfluous to the story. But it's the story itself which is the final let down because there isn't one. There's no conflict of any great meaning, other than the contrived interplay between the hero and heroine; not much of a romance either and no excitement in the plotline. Nothing happens in this story. Just about the most exciting thing that occurred was a visit to a cathedral and, guess what, nothing happened there either. The characters spent the entire day admiring the building!

      What the book does do well, however, is capture the mealy-mouthed hypocrisy of an age where appearance and position was everything and where a blind eye was turned to the misery of the situations of the majority. I feel the author missed a trick here and should have concentrated her story on the plight of women at that time, many of whom when faced with destitution found themselves having to take positions as servants or resorting to theft or prostitution in order to simply survive.

      I can't say the story conveyed much of a sense of time or place either, although the author did refrain from making the mistake of tumbling the hero and heroine into bed at the first opportunity and they conducted their relationship, such as it was, in the accepted way for the early nineteenth century, and she has them addressing each other formally rather than using Christian names but the background was just about as bland and uninteresting as the story itself.

      The author claims the novel is loosely based on the biblical story of Ruth story but I found it borrows far more heavily from such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. I really had to force myself to finish this book and admit to skimming the final portion. I needn't have bothered because it ended exactly as I'd have expected.

      My disappointment in this book was probably made worse by the fact that I've recently been reading an excelelnt historical mystery series set in the same era which is the absolute antithesis of this one. It's as detailed and exciting in every aspect as this one is bland and uninteresting. The Widow's Redeemer is currently being sold for £2.05 in Kindle format or £7.65 for the paperback. All I can say is, don't waste your money. I'm afraid I could find no redeeming features in this story.

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