Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review: The Enticing Of Miss Standish

The Enticing of Miss Standish Book Cover
On paper, The Enticing of Miss Standish by Julia Justiss has everything I want in a historical romance: an independent, forthright heroine, a self-made, non-titled hero, class conflict, a slow burn romance, set in the early Victorian era when the Industrial Revolution was becoming A Very Big Deal.  This is all stuff I love - so why then didn't I love this book?  Let me explain....

This is the third book in the author's Cinderella Spinsters series but stands alone well.  With her two best friends now married, Sara Standish's hope that they'd all get a house together, live independently, to work on their various interests and projects is somewhat dashed.  Oh sure, she's happy for her friends - she just needs to convince her demanding aunt and "invalid" mother that traipsing her around London trying to land her a husband is futile. Sara just isn't that interested nor does she (or any eligible gentleman it seems) find herself all that interesting.  What she wants to do is continue her political activism work on behalf of child mill workers.  So when an opportunity to serve as a companion to Lady Trent as her committee tours mills out in the country, Sara calls up all her powers of persuasion and gets her aunt to agree.

Cameron Fitzallen was an indigent orphan who worked in the mills as a child, but his curiosity and intelligence were recognized by the owner who sent him to school.  Cameron is mechanical gifted, having several patents to his name and is now taking over ownership and operation of the mill.  Naturally, having been a mill child himself, his mill far exceeds the reforms set in place by the Factory Act - which means it's an early stop for Lady Trent's committee.  Cam has strong feelings about gentry do-gooders and immediately butts heads with Sara - who finds him attractive, albeit insufferable.  Cam soon realizes he's been an ass, so when an opportunity presents itself to smooth things over with Sara, he does.

That's basically it.  The conflict revolves entirely around class - Sara being gentry and Cameron most assuredly not.  There's a pompous earl's son who sneers and Lady Trent who very bluntly tells Sara that yes, the man is charming and intelligent but it just won't work and naturally Sara and Cam can't stay away from each other.  It's always there, and a problem, but it's not a real driving force in the story until the very end.  So that leaves a couple hundred pages to fill up with other stuff - which is Sara visiting the mill schools, musing on her attraction to Cam and knowing it's no good but oh she's can't help it, Cam having those same musings about Sara, running his mill, and his own passions for improving mill machinery and making life better for his workforce.  Oh, and there's a train ride to Birmingham.

It's all very boring.  The conflict lacks punch, and the characters, while admirable and interesting, exhibit more passion for their, uh, passions than they do for each other.  There's some decent tension, but it's inconsistent.  When I finally think we're going to get some oomph to the conflict and a suitably climactic finish?  It's like a balloon slowly being deflated.  The author sets up a dynamite finish, where Sara could declare her independence, confront her aunt and mother, and ride off into the sunset to live the life SHE wants to and claim Cam.  Instead?  There's no confrontation with auntie or mama and the sweeping declarations of love between our romantic couple are rather muted.

The parts just don't add up to a whole - which is a shame because this is a historical with some actual history in it, Sara and Cam are both admirable interesting characters, and for a change of pace issues of class aren't swept under the rug - well, until they actually are.  Because while it's a given that Sara's BFFs will stand by her side as she marries ::shudder:: an entrepreneur, the fact that auntie has a miraculous change of heart was a bit too much for me to swallow.

Your mileage may vary, but sadly this one never elevated itself above "OK" for me.

Final Grade = C


Suzanne said...

"It's all very boring."

LOL oh no...

azteclady said...

These days I'm very much okay without angst, but I want to believe in the protagonists feelings for each other, and not their relationship being more afterthought than driving force, so I think I'll give this one a pass.

Pity, though.

Bronwyn Parry said...

Darn. This sounds like it should be right up my alley, but I do like a bit of conflict with my stories.

Wendy said...

Suzanne: Yeah, it just doesn't go anywhere for a very long time - so, boring.

AL: I mean it's great that the hero and heroine are passionate about their causes and that they have similar interests - and while they're attracted to each other, I felt like it all took a back seat to their interests/causes. Maybe some more clandestine flirting? A few more stolen kisses? I mean there's some of that but I needed more.

Bronwyn: To be honest I totally would have bumped my grade up if I had gotten a good confrontation at the end between the aunt and the heroine. There's totally a set-up for one and then...nope. Nothing. I'm still disappointed about it.

Jen Twimom said...

Oh... it sounded like it had such promise. I'm all for an easy story these days, low conflict... but there needs to be something... an external conflict they must sort out together, bringing them closer at least! Sounds like this one doesn't hold up. Thanks for the review.

Wendy said...

Jen: Yeah, it reads like a series of events - like when one of the mill children gets sick or the heroine visits the school rooms - but there's not enough strength thrown behind any of the punches. Ugh, and I'm still annoyed by the lack of confrontation with the heroine's aunt at the end.