Ladies and Gentlemen, It is time for another retro romance review. This is one that I read shortly after I discovered The Bride. In fact it was the second adult romance I ever read. I had to be a little more careful when I was reading this one because it wasn’t on the bookcase, it was in a cubby in my parents’ headboard of their bed. This meant one of them, I was sure it was my mother, was reading it. And if you look at the cover, I wasn’t sure I was ready for them to see me reading something like that. So I could only read it when my mom wasn’t home. My reading was further complicated because I had to ensure it looked exactly the same each time I was forced to pause so I couldn’t use a bookmark. Then I had the fear that before I finished reading the book would disappear. Lucky me I was able to finish because it has become one of my favorites. As a funny sidenote I was talking to my mother about romances the other day and she insists that before I started pushing to her she had only read romances by Julie Garwood so I don’t know if she ever finished it or if she was even the one reading it…
Publisher: Avon Books
Publish Date: 1982 (Out Now)
How I got this book: Borrowed from my mother’s bookshelf, now purchased
Debt-ridden Avery Fleming is determined to find a wealthy husband for his beautiful daughter, Erienne, so he can pay off his mountain of debts. Erienne, however, has refused every one of the old men her father has picked for her consideration. When she meets dashing American merchant Christopher Seton, she cannot deny her attraction to him, despite the fact that he wounded her brother, Farrell, in a duel, crippling him for life. However, when Seton asks for Erienne’s hand in marriage, both she and her father refuse him. Instead, Erienne’s father auctions her off to the highest bidder–the mysterious Lord Saxton, a man whose horrifying scars are hidden by a mask and cloak. Erienne comes to know her husband as a kind and gentle man, but when Christopher Seton returns to town, she cannot fight her attraction to him. She finds herself torn between her duty to the man she has wed and the call of her heart.
This blurb came from Goodreads.
I have continued to read and enjoy Ms Woodiwiss’ books but this is one of a couple that I read often. When I was re-reading for this review I realized that Ms Woodiwiss, while writing in the era of “bodice rippers” took some different tactics. Her heroine was rather strong-willed and intelligent. She didn’t sit around waiting to be rescued but tried to rescue herself and make the best of her situation. She was also extremely loyal. Sometimes I thought she was too loyal but her actions made sense given her character. Even when she was married and her husband, Lord Saxton, had a monstrous appearance, Erienne continued to remain faithful. I do not tend to like infidelity so I loved it when then heroine decided that she was going to consummate her marriage despite her fears of his physical deformities. Yes she was encouraged by the behavior of a certain individual but she made the choice to go to her husband. It would have been so easy for Erienne to take the other route so the small snippet below is just one of the many scenes that I love with her.
“Tis Erienne, milord.” She loosed the belt and dropped her robe, then leaned a knee upon the bed. The waiting silence continued, and drawing up her other knee and climbing onto the mattress, she sat back on her heels. Her voice trembled as she spoke her reason for coming. “My lord, I am less afraid of what you are than what I might become I you do not make me your wife in full. ‘Tis my plea that you take me to you so no further questions might be involved in our marriage.”
I didn’t fall in love with the hero, Christopher Seton, for quite some time. First I had my doubts as to how he was going to become the hero. Erienne’s father forbade any interaction between the two since he was the person who wounded Farrell and being a loyal daughter Erienne placed all the blame for her current list of very undesirable suitors on him. Then Erienne was auctioned on the block and married to Lord Saxton so her father could pay his outstanding debts, some directly owed to and others bought by the same Christopher Seton. Prior to the marriage auction, Mr. Seton made a habit of not just pursuing Erienne but also rescuing her from events that might not have happened just yet if he hadn’t been involved. I liked him for all of that but then after the marriage when he continued his attempts to seduce Erienne, which is when I decided that he needed some redemption before becoming a worthwhile hero. Lets just say that Ms Woodiwiss was able to make me believe in Mr. Seton as a hero.
Ms Woodiwiss didn’t just deal with the romance but she also included murder mysteries, revenge, highwaymen, a mysterious black rider, lecherous lords and ladies, missing tax revenues and tally books, brutal deaths, unlikely heroes, and gorgeous sounding clothes and jewelry. All of this is woven throughout the story of the romance and also provides some of the impetus for the actions of a few key individuals. The blending of the different threads still seems seamless as I re-read it mumble years later. It still provides me with hours of entertainment since this was also written when novels were expected to have a much longer word-count then now. When I finished reading once again I regretted the shift away from large books because the authors could have a romance span months or even years without losing the reader due to skipped scenes. The characters and settings could also be fully developed without cheating one or the other. I never thought that the story suffered due to a shorter word count.
A Rose in Winter doesn’t include any of the balls, Almacks, stale lemonade, rakes who are reformed by the heroine that can appear to be overused in today’s historicals. If you haven’t tried Ms Woodiwiss yet and you are looking for something that doesn’t fit the formula I highly recommend this one.
I give A Rose in Winter an A.
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