25/07/2014

Homespun Bride (by Jillian Hart)

I’m a bit of a sucker for free Kindle books; I browse them in various categories, from time to time, and download anything that seems even vaguely interesting. This one was from the Mills and Boon historical fiction series, so although I didn’t expect anything too thought-provoking or deep, I hoped for a well-written light romance. I had not previously heard of Jillian Hart, but apparently she's quite a prolific writer of American historical romances.

The starting pages of ‘Homespun Bride’ promise a good story. We meet Noelle, a young lady at the end of the 19th century who went blind after an accident a few years previously. She lost her parents at the same time, and now lives with her outspoken Aunt Henrietta, her risk-taking Uncle Robert, and their daughters. Noelle and Henrietta are out for a drive on a winter’s day when their horse - recently bought by the foolhardy Robert - bolts, and they are only just rescued before plunging into the river.

The rescuer - by remarkable coincidence - is a young man called Thad who is extremely good with horses, and who also happens to be the man who jilted Noelle some years previously, and disappeared without a trace, leaving her heartbroken…

So far, so good. The outcome is, of course predictable, the dramatic meeting between hero and heroine a standard ploy for this kind of novel, and the aunt and uncle apparently intended for a bit of light relief. I was a bit confused by an abrupt viewpoint change without warning; instead of the story being from Noelle’s viewpoint, it suddenly switches to Thad’s, and back again; this continues through the story and left me rather bewildered at times. However, had that been the only problem with this book, I wouldn’t have minded too much; different writers choose different styles, and while this one supposedly breaks the rules, it does give the reader the chance to get into the heads of each of the two main characters, albeit in rapid succession.

Unfortunately, not much actually happens in the book, other than a lot of repetitive soul-searching and quenching of longings. Noelle is, unsurprisingly, reluctant to see much of the man who left her without a word, but circumstances throw them together (as I expected) and a tentative friendship begins. However almost every page has far more unspoken thoughts than action or speech; Noelle feels useless and is convinced nobody could ever want to marry her. Thad had reasons for what he did, and doesn’t want to fall in love with Noelle all over again… and they go over and over the same inner arguments and ponderings, page after page.

Yes, there are different scenes, and another dramatic incident which draws the young couple closer around the middle of the book, but their constant heart-searchings and convictions that their dreams are over just become irritating. There’s no dramatic tension; obviously they’re going to get together in the end. Their friendship is believable, but their lack of communication about their feelings and intentions make no sense at all.

I could empathise with Noelle, despite her unbelievably low opinions of herself, and thought the author did a good job of showing what life would have been like for somebody without sight in this era. Thad was well-drawn too, with good strength of character; I just wish his every thought hadn’t been included. I quite liked the aunt and uncle, but most of the minor characters are two-dimensional and add little to the story.

I couldn’t read more than a chapter at a time without being annoyed by the repetition, but I did keep reading, out of curiosity to discover how the couple would eventually discover that they loved each other. And I liked the underlying story despite the parts which - increasingly - I found myself skimming. With a significant amount of editing, this could have been a very enjoyable book.

Unfortunately this is no longer available free. If you can borrow it, or find a paperback version second-hand, it's worth picking up as a light holiday read that can be put down at any point, but I wouldn't recommend paying full-price for it.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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