Friday, October 6, 2017

Rose Lerner - Sweet Disorder

Nick Dymond enjoyed the rough-and-tumble military life until a bullet to the leg sent him home to his emotionally distant, politically obsessed family. For months, he's lived alone with his depression, blockaded in his lodgings.
But with his younger brother desperate to win the local election, Nick has a new set of marching orders: dust off the legendary family charm and maneuver the beautiful Phoebe Sparks into a politically advantageous marriage.
One marriage was enough for Phoebe. Under her town's by-laws, though, she owns a vote that only a husband can cast. Much as she would love to simply ignore the unappetizing matrimonial candidate pushed at her by the handsome earl's son, she can't. Her teenage sister is pregnant, and Phoebe's last-ditch defense against her sister's ruin is her vote-and her hand.
Nick and Phoebe soon realize the only match their hearts will accept is the one society will not allow. But as election intrigue turns dark, they'll have to cast the cruelest vote of all: loyalty...or love.

Comment: This is the last book by Rose Lerner I had in my pile. This is the first of a series that many readers have been praising at each new installment but I think at the moment I don't feel curious enough to read the others. I also accidentally read something, not a spoiler, just a declaration the characters have in general terms about a certain subject and that influenced my wish to keep reading so... I'll stick with this one for now.

In this book we have the story of Nick Dymond, the middle son in a very political family. Nick is a war hero but he doesn't feel so. What he does feel is the constant pain in his leg, something he can't ignore despite his mostly happy countenance.His mother, trying to bring him out of a gloomier period, asks his help to win the decisive votes for their party (Tory) by finding a man for the woman who has the vote capacity. Along with his younger brother, Nick tries his best but he wasn't counting on wanting the woman for himself...
Phoebe Sparks is the woman in question because being a widow she retains the ability to vote but although she always went for Tory, he Whig party might have the best deal for her, something she wished she didn't have to worry about but her sister's difficult situation might be too delicate for Phoebe to consider only herself...

I think I might not have chosen the best moment to read this book. It's true it's very rich in detail and characterization and the author has clearly bet on a specific approach to her novels, they seem well structured and researched.
One could say one of the strongest themes explored here is the notion of politics, parties, voting, opposition and campaign, Obviously very different from nowadays but still. My reading, however, has coincided with elections in my own country, the voting for local government and I'm afraid I couldn't truly dissociate my feelings in real life (let's just say the outcome wasn't well received by many people where I live and the hateful comments, especially in social media have become abhorrent and sad, so...) from my enjoyment of the novel. The fact a huge part of the novel dealt with the expectations and behaviors of people involved in politics just made the story feel too depressing for me.

The idea of this book is quite interesting and it has certainly made me feel curious about British politics in the 19th century but although the well researched side of the story feels very realistic, the fictional part was a bit too sad.
Yes, in one hand I feel lie applauding a writer who mentions and describes he more realistic and truthful details of the lives of those who didn't have it easy when it comes to money, like dukes and princes, but on the other it's too close to reality and the fantasy side of romance novels that make me dream about these characters felt a bit put aside. Some unlikely things did happen but I confess I expected a bit more magic.

The political and social details are excellent, I feel. The way most characters act and react according to what surrounds hem feels well done and thought of. The family connections and the expectations family members have of one another and of themselves was also well explored, I think. But the romance, the interactions, the decisions too raw and this made my enjoyment more pragmatic than romantic and even considering Nick and Phoebe a good couple, their interactions truthful and believable, I miss a stronger romance element. 

Like I said, maybe this was not the best moment to read this. Obviously, Phoebe needs to make a choice and when things seem to go one way, the angst comes and the plot takes a turn. I kind of appreciate the way the HEA happens but yes, I would have loved to see more happy things.
There are several elements to praise in this book, for instance, the middle class and the working class issues are well presented here, the heroine isn't a perfectly slim woman, the lives of the secondary characters aren't all perfect or ruined and this makes the plot feel more alive and complex. But yes, the romance wasn't always center stage and I miss a more obvious connection (I feel sexual compatibility and appreciation of the other aren't enough).

All in all a perfectly good book, intriguing characters and personalities but something was missing fo me and the timing wasn't the best. Still, recommended.
Grade: 7/10

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