He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.Psalm 103:4
Christian themes are overt, with faith playing an important role in the plot line. In addition to praying, the characters also discuss their faith with one another, and I recall several Bible verses, throughout.
There’s a beautiful “turning point scene” focusing on God’s love. This was my favorite part of the book (although I think it was slightly diminished by the inclusion of the romance, there. It felt a bit too “convenient” to me at that moment in the text). The verse from Psalm 103 is quoted in this scene, but using the King James Version.
What I Liked
The front matter was lovely. To all those who dare to forgive. What a daring yet beautiful way to begin a book! I also enjoyed the John Keats excerpt with the title. I really like direct, meaningful title connections.
The first chapter also drew me in, and the plot kept my attention, overall.
I liked the way the author breaks tradition— which is actually the point of the series. Rather than using wealthy protagonists, her main characters are poor. And they’re not exactly poor Cinderella’s, either. While Sarah finds herself in her a higher position than the one she was raised in, she doesn’t immediately win over the servants with her charm. In fact, the servants treat her very harshly and refuse to accept her new status. (This is an inversion, too, because servants are often portrayed as being especially selfless and helpful). Additionally, Sarah, while kind and generous, is not an especially “sweet” character. Instead, she’s very honest (and blunt), which earns favor at some points and disdain at others.
In terms of disdain, though, the doctor takes the cake. This was the most noticeable surprise plot element, for me, since I usually see doctors portrayed in a positive, or at least neutral, way. Not so with this doctor! He’s downright rude, for no apparent reason. Plus, the medicines/treatments he prescribed (and his vindictiveness) reminded me of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which seems appropriate, given what the author says in the note at the end of the book.
There are two main elements that I’d like to critique, both plot elements. The first isn’t really a spoiler because it happens within the first chapter. The second is a little bit more spoilery. These are elements that made me less fond of the book, as a whole.
First, a drunken James assaults Sarah by kissing her. This happened within the first few pages and I had a sinking feeling that this was going to be the person Sarah had a relationship with. I was right, but you’ll know that just by reading the back cover.
After James kissed Sarah, I was pretty determined not to like him. While I can appreciate that this is necessary for the theme of forgiveness, I also feel like the church does a lot of understanding the perspective of abusers, and it didn’t help that James continued to act kind of creepy, even after repenting.
The second element I’d like to mention is the passage of time. In the first half of the book, we skip ahead ten months. Some very significant things happen during this time. However, these events are merely summarized, or revisited later in only minor detail. I feel that, had I actually witnessed these moments, the story would have been substantially more powerful.
Oh, one more quick thing. Affairs/illegitimacy are a minor plot. I liked some, but not all, of the ways the author handled this topic.
Content is fairly clean, in terms of actual romance. There’s some kissing at the end. However, as mentioned above, there is an assault with kissing, plus a moment of near assault.
I’ve read a few “marriage of convenience” books and I’m beginning to think it’s just not a genre I really enjoy. However, for readers who enjoy the trope (and Gothic-inspired fiction), I would recommend this title with only minor reader discretion.
Publicist Audra Jennings is hosting a giveaway for a free copy of the book. Click here to learn more and enter!