Wednesday, November 20, 2019

TBR Challenge: Sarah E. Ladd - The Heiress of Winterwood

Amelia Barrett, heiress to an ancestral estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend s infant baby. She'll risk everything to keep her word even to the point of proposing to the child s father, Lucas, a sea captain she s never met.
Tragedy strikes when the child vanishes with little more than a sketchy ransom note hinting to her whereabouts. Fear for the child s safety drives Amelia and Lucas to test the boundaries of their love for this infant.
Amelia s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she examines her soul and must face her one weakness: pride.
Lucas strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline.
Both must learn to accept God s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.

Comment: November is more than half way through and this month the theme for the TBR challenge post is sugar or spice, which Wendy described as closed door/just kisses or sexy-times-steamy. As time has passed, I found I'm not that much of a fan of erotic romance nor mostly erotica content and it has been rare to find books where the romance and the (more amount of) sex scenes/situations have felt balanced for me. 
Therefore, I picked a sugar type of story and perhaps I went a little too far and chose a so-labeled "clean" romance. I say this because although I like romances with no sex, the story has to be appealing and this one didn't meet the expectations I had.

This is the story of heiress Amelia Barret, a young woman who is going to inherit quite a sum of money and an estate upon her 24th birthday or when she marries and it seems her life is already set for her for she has a fiancé and everything seems secure and planned for her.
Things change when her dear friend Katherine dies in childbirth and Amelia promises to her to raise and protect her child at al times. This, however, is not what her fiancé wants and after telling her the child will need to go after they marry, Amelia takes things into her own hands and when she meets her friend's husband, recently returned from overseas, she bravely talks to him about marrying one another, so baby Lucy can stay with them both and Amelia can keep her promise.
Of course this is not well received neither by her fiancé nor by her uncle and aunt, with whom she has living with since he parents death.
Will Amelia be able to keep her promise and stay true to her beliefs even when everyone around her tells her she is making a selfish mistake?

I expected this to be a marriage of convenience story or, at most, a story where the characters would be put in a position where their personal journey through feelings and a situation in which both of them had to deal with their own issues while joining forces for the sake of baby Lucy would force them to spend time together and, thus, realizing they had a lot in common.
I also knew going in this would be a "clean" romance (as many labeled this type of story which in a loose explanation means a story without sex scenes) but when done well, it can be as richly engaging as as romantic as one with them.

What I didn't expect, to be honest, was how boring this story turned out to be! The plot is not about the main characters' marriage as I assumed by the blurb's mention of  the heroine's "proposing to the child's father". The whole plot takes place between the moment the said father shows up at Amelia's estate - which happens to be side by side with his older brother's - and the moment all is well and they do decide, at last, to be married. I mean, what a disappointment! I thought this would be a marriage of convenience plot and it was not so, which means I had to turn my hopes into the brilliance of the character's actions and personality but... no.

I found Amelia to be a likable protagonist but not captivating. I understand these types of books don't usually have heroines that behave too much outside a certain norm but I've read "clean" romances where the characters and the plots are engaging and easy to be lost in. Amelia was just so...dull and uninspiring and so focused on the child that, even though I liked how she defended an innocent baby and a promise she made, her thoughts didn't go past what she thought was best. Apparently she had to learn the lesson she shouldn't be prideful and accept others' opinions and feelings but what came across to me was not this. Instead, it only felt she was caught in a complicated situation and the author just had to force the reader to think about Amelia's actions in a way the Christian fiction label would see it as a way to teach a lesson.

This is where I would say there's the difference to other "clean" or "Christian fiction" stories out there: in this novel, the preaching and guidance element of the novel was too obvious and too glaring for the reader unlike in other books or by other authors where that is seamlessly inserted and one can get their own mind about it without that being visible in the plot. I know this works for many readers but for me it distracts from the story and those characters. How marvelous when the authors can give this same impression but in a natural way that doesn't seem like the idea was put there artificially... 

The hero, honestly, barely registered in my mind. I can only say that he was a navy officer, his life was at sea and he planned to return to his duty after solving the situation of his daughter but somehow he and Amelia decide to be married and right before that he accepted God's will on the subject. I won't go too much into it but I got the impression this was his end anyway, whatever would happen he would always conclude he had to follow God but this means that, for me, the author didn't really give him any personality. 
Sometimes, many heroes and heroines in these "clean" romances probably don't divert too much from a general idea but it's the author's job to make them alive and charismatic to the reader. I wouldn't say this was the case here, for me.

I won't go more into it because I think I'd only find negative details to pick on but although the plot has some positive aspects (I liked how difficult it was for Amelia to go against the norms but she had a strong side I wish had been done in a more appealing manner) and there were a few scenes that weren't too bad, there is just too much predictability and preaching and boredom all around that stopped me from enjoying it. I know it works well for many readers but for me it wasn't so and I won't read anything by this author so soon. Maybe one day I might see her work differently.
Grade: 4/10


  1. Yikes! Sorry this one failed you this month. I know what you mean - I like clean with deep emotion, with or without the faith element, as long as it doesn't feel contrived.

    1. Hello Dorine!

      Yes, this one didn't end up being as appealing as I might have wanted...