by Tessa Dare, historical (2013)
Avon Impulse, $3.99, ISBN 978-0-06-223885-6
We're back in Spindle Cove, which is, if you're new to the whole series, a lovely island full of every variety of conventional "unconventional romance heroine" stereotypes along with some token guys that exist to be pursued and ogled at by these ladies. Don't worry, though, this short story can stand alone pretty well.
Dear Mrs Highwood was a recurring character in Tessa Dare's previous Spindle Cove books, and the running gag is that this snobby woman believes that her eldest daughter Diana would elevate the family prestige by marrying into the lofty echelons of nobility. What will she do if she discovers that golden beautiful Diana is in love with the town blacksmith Aaron Dawes? No, Mrs Highwood, he's not the secret son of a nobleman and he doesn't have a stash of gold hidden in his cellar. Isn't this fun?
Reality is the villain in this story. Aaron believes that he's not the right person for Diana for obvious reasons while Diana knows that she'd make a lousy wife for a blacksmith even if we overlook her pedigree, as she knows nothing about living life as a working class lady. True love can't be defeated by reality, however, and with his big fat hammer stoking the fires in her furnace, there is nothing that is going to stop them now, just like that song from Starship. Everyone, apart from Mrs Highwood, is so happy that the elegant upper class lady is finally marrying the town blacksmith.
It's a sweet romance, though, no matter how implausible things can be. Aaron and Diana are actually very sweet together, although don't be fooled by their collective lack of sexual experience (Aaron's experience with women is actually limited compared to a typical romance hero) - when they get down, the temperature can get unexpectedly high. While on the surface Diana is just another sweet and perfect heroine, Diana's attraction to Aaron catalyzes the start of her efforts to find out what she wants for herself in life. I can relate to that, although the author's approach is a decidedly contemporary one that may not sit well with readers who like their historical romances to feel authentic.
Still, I wonder why the author brings up the actual issues that will and do stand in the way of such a couple to work, only to dismiss them all by the last page in favor of an unrealistic happy ending. I have no problems with such a unrealistic happy ending, since I do like the couple and I love their quiet moments together. I just wonder why the author would wave a red cape in front of readers who will mind such unrealistic turn of events. It's almost like the author is trolling, heh.
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