Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Celia Lake - Outcrossing

Having magic in your blood doesn't make you happy.
Rufus Pride lost his brothers to the Great War, his parents to the Naples Scourge, and he's on the verge of losing his cottage, his ponies, and everything else he cares about. Everyone knows his magic is powerful, but no one trusts him, not anymore. When he saves Ferry's charge from a cranky pony on market day, she offers the first kind words he's heard in months.
Ferry Wright became a governess in rural England as a last resort after she refused to marry the man her parents chose for her. Six months later, she's (mostly) figured out how to manage her charges and can finally explore the nearby village and the forest around it. Rufus is everything her family would hate, but he loves and understands the New Forest in a way that enchants her. She'll gladly learn anything he's willing to teach.
When a smuggler needs his raw power to handle a rare shipment, Rufus can't resist the chance to make enough money to change his life forever. He has hope for the first time in years until the curiousity of the local lord and a completely inadequate magical education threaten the only home he's ever known and any possible future with Ferry.

Comment: I had seen this book recommended in a review site I sometimes check and got curious abut what was being said about this author's work. The story would have magic in an historical setting and a slow burn romance, which was enough to convince me.

In this novel, set in the 1920s, we meet Rufus Pride, a man who came back from the war without a scratch, whereas so many others weren't. This means no one trusts him and he can't find work and he can't pay his bills. He contemplates working for illegal smuggling, but he knows people would accept him even less because of that. One day he helps Ferry Wright by saving her charge on market day and she is nice to him, making him wish for things he can't have. However, time after time they end up talking and it seems their attraction might be mutual. However, Rufus still has the same problems and he feels he won't be good enough for Ferry...then, suddenly the local lord returns and starts investigating what has been going on, could this mean Rufus might be in trouble if he accepts the smuggling job?

I was looking for this story because it did feel like something I would like to read, it had plenty of elements I would like such as the slow burn romance and the magic content... it is clear this is a fantasy-like novel using the 1920s as the setting and I expected obvious clues about the time period, as well as the repercussions of the war... it seems the author used many recognizable historical elements and added the magical one to enhance the world/plot but I don't think it was enough to really convey the idea this was an historical setting. 

Sadly, the overall result didn't work for me. The story is simple but interesting and that's it. I found the plot to be simple - it helps the book isn't very big - and the way things were developed isn't difficult to follow but I wasn't marveled and several details just felt lacking in enthusiasm. I thought we would see much more magic and how this would affect people's lives and why having or not having magic would matter to people or how this would play in the social hierarchy... there is some content about this but not enough and not presented in a captivating way for me to love reading about it.

The aim was for this book to be charming, intimate and focused on the small community of people we get to meet or hear about and on paper it does work, but it simply lacked passion, in the sense that I wanted to feel invested in the characters and in what would happen to them, why they were that way... There's also too little about secondary characters, except the necessary for the main plot, so I didn't even get to be hooked on them or what importance they might have in the future.

Rufus seems to be a captivating character, lots of things he doesn't say but we kind of infer, we learn he feels lonely and apart from everyone else...the author did convey the notion of Rufus being emotionally vulnerable quite well, but his emotions/situation didn't change at all until the very end, so his development felt rather sudden and too slow and the feeling I ended up having the most about him is pity and not exactly one of someone who is improving or being seen.

Ferry Wright comes from a better connected family, aristocrat if I understood well and she is working as a governess because she refused a marriage to a much older man. She likes Rufus because he is a gentle and quiet man and she sees the beauty of the forest around her through his eyes. Their relationship is slow but based on sharing their real feelings and we can see they would be a supporting couple, they would be there for one another. But even though they act on their attraction, I still didn't fee the chemistry between them and they could be just friends that the vibe of the story would be the same.

I suppose I could say all these things are linked to the same element: the writing style just feels minimal, not impressive or rich enough. I feel the story lacks depth and layers... something more to make the characters feel more alive or special or even captivating. Apparently, this is the author's debut, she has said herself she has improved with time... I might try another book to compare one day, but regarding this one, I'm sorry to say it didn't win me over.
Grade: 4/10

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