by Gia Dawn, historical/fantasy (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-59998-662-0
Lady Strumpet takes over from where Lord Demon's Delight left off, but I don't believe one needs to read that book before tackling this one. I'm sure author Gia Dawn would love you to read both books, of course. Just to recap briefly without giving away too many spoilers, it is discovered that our heroine Jane Seville's parents were wrongfully accused and executed as witches so by the start of this story all the lands and titles are restored to her by King Edred. Of course, she needs a husband, or so Edred believes and the King tells his buddy, the Master Builder Wynn Dunmore, to be that lucky man.
Wynn is an albino. Or albhus, a fairy trapped in human body, in the language of these people. He believes that no noble woman would want him as a husband because of the possibility of any child that he sires will turn out be an albino like him. However, Edred reminds him that only a nobleman can become the Lord High Mason and he'll of course bestows that title upon Wynn when Wynn marries Jane and becomes Lord Seville. Then again, Jane isn't a typical noblewoman. She was a former prostitute and tavern maid until she finds herself elevated to her current lofty station. She doesn't want to be a noblewoman and she certainly doesn't like all these men wooing her for the title and money. Wynn will have a blast trying to change her mind about him and love in general.
This story is more angst-ridden than the previous book. Both Wynn and Jane have issues, he about his looks that have earned him plenty of unpleasant confrontations with superstitious people and she about her past. While the final conflict between these characters is a contrived bit of misunderstanding, on the whole Jane and Wynn connect very well as they realize just how much they have in common in terms of their isolation from the people around them. Therefore, I am disappointed that this story is short to the point that nothing much could be done to these characters within that limiting length constraint.
Ms Dawn should also really try to maintain the atmosphere of her setting. It's a common annoyance, I notice, with many of the current crop of authors who write stories placed in fantasy settings. I don't know if Ms Dawn is part of a writing clique with those other authors or not, but I notice a distressing trend here. These authors are supposed to be writing stories set in some make-believe world, and in Ms Dawn's case, a fictitious country with a generic setting that could be anything from Elizabethan to Regency England. Ms Dawn uses some "'Tis" here and there for atmosphere, but egads, no 'tis or 'tat can mask the fact that these characters speak like modern-day folks. At least Ms Dawn isn't allowing her characters to use four-letter words like some authors I can think of, but it is still hard for me to appreciate the setting when the characters speak like modern-day people. The story is too short to allow much world-building to take place, so the last thing the author needs is her characters to make the story come off like a college costume play.
Lady Strumpet is not a bad book by any means, but its short length means that it is not a memorable book either, since the story ends before I even get to know the characters well.
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