Monday, September 21, 2015

Trials of Artemis (Sue London)

Trials of Artemis
(The Haberdashers series, Book 1)
Sue London
Graythorn Publishing
Fiction, Historical Fiction/Romance
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: At the end of the eighteenth century, three English girls form their own secret society: the Haberdashers, a "boys club" where they can pursue such unfeminine interests as fencing, racing, and archery. Grown to women in the Regency era, they must now navigate a world of balls and prospective husbands... but a Haberdasher girl will never be an ordinary fainting flower of a society girl, and woe to the suitor who expects them to become one.
Jacqueline, or Jack to her friends, has no interest in marriage. A bride is property, with no say in her own welfare, no money or recourse on her own. She would much rather slip off to the library to read Greek plays than dance and flirt - which is how she inadvertently met Gideon, the Earl of Harrington. And how she found herself suddenly affianced to a man she doesn't even know.
Gideon Wolfe meant to meet a mistress for a rendezvous in the library... but the girl he snuck up on, and was caught in a compromising position with, was a total stranger, daughter of a lesser family. As they were seen, the best way to save face was to claim engagement. Gideon never meant to marry at all, least of all to a headstrong bluestocking, but there seems to be no graceful way out. Maybe it won't be so bad - he can ship her off to one of his distant estates, perhaps, and carry on as he has been.
From sham courtship to face-saving marriage, the two can hardly look at each other without starting a fight. But there's more than friction to the sparks that fly between them...

REVIEW: A fast-reading period romance, Trials of Artemis introduces an unconventional Regency heroine, but doesn't always quite seem to know what to do with her. Sparks fly fast and frequently between Jack and her fiance-of-convenience Gideon, who displays a rather unattractive jealous streak from quite early on, but their fate would seem clear even if this weren't a romance title. The plot often has to go out of its way to push them apart with doubts and revelations, some of which seem to be dropped in out of the blue simply to create tension. A back-burner mention of smugglers eventually comes to the forefront at a critical time, but otherwise there's not much of a story outside the slow surrender of two stubborn hearts to the power of love, and the struggle of Jack and Gideon to adapt to their new, unlooked-for partnership. Of course, being a romance, I suppose a strong plot isn't necessary so long as there's sufficient sexual tension and steam, which this tale has in fair supply. It's not a bad story, and it killed an evening, but it felt a little long as London strings their relationship out, and some of the twists seemed a little contrived. I don't know that I'll read further in the series (though the little I saw of the heroine of Book 2 definitely has me considering it.)

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