by Wendy Young, historical (2010)
DellArte Press, $13.99, ISBN 978-1-4501-0001-4
Our heroine Wren - you know, now that I think of it, I don't recall ever reading about her last name - is the usual beautiful innocent stereotype who has no idea that she is gorgeous. When the story opens, she is pressured into marrying by a family acquaintance, Bradley Winchester III. While she would love to marry, the haste in which she is being pressured into marrying flummoxes her, causing her to seek sanctuary in her Uncle Charles's place to figure out what she wants to do.
As things would have it, she is placed in our hero Dargan Knight's room. He is Uncle Charles's nephew, so I guess that makes him Wren's cousin. Don't worry, I'm sure the whole marriage thing between them is legal. At any rate I don't know why his name is Dargan when everyone else in the clan has pretty ordinary names like Eliza and Clara. Wren is feeling a little under the weather due to the heat of the South Carolina weather, so Clara fixes her a sleeping tonic. Poor Wren doesn't know what came onto her - oops, did I say that out loud? - when Dargan shows up in his room and assumes that the woman asleep in his bed is his girlfriend.
To cut the long story short, Dargan is ordered by his uncle and aunt to marry Wren or else. The rest of the story deals with Wren trying to figure out her husband. Honestly, I'm with her. Dargan confuses me completely because every time I am given his point of view, he more often than not contradicts the things he said or thought in the previous scene where he had his point of view. One moment, he bizarrely blames Wren for trapping her into an unwanted marriage and therefore he'd like to have it annulled so that he can marry his girlfriend. This girlfriend, by the way, is pointed out by Dargan's family to the heroine as a woman of very little redeeming value, so Dargan's constant association with her makes the poor man come off as pretty dim. Anyway, next, I will get Dargan happily spending time with Wren as if all is well. Then, he is staying away, wanting to get rid of her. Then he's back, all sweet and nice. Repeat and rinse - I honestly can't figure out what this guy wants. He's all over the place, his thoughts and motivations changing depending on the author's need for a particular conflict at any point in her story.
As for Wren, she comes off as a sweet but naïve young lady who certainly deserves more than a husband who seems to go wherever his whims take him. She faces all kinds of familiar issues: she doesn't know whether she can trust her husband, she panics when she realizes that she's carrying his child (since she's certain that he doesn't want her or the kid), she wonders about his fidelity, et cetera. In this case, though, she has the right to feel these things because Dargan sends her mixed signals all the time. Still, Ms Young has Wren deciding to fight for her husband's love, which is nice because it demonstrates that Wren is no passive victim when push comes to shove. Don't ask me why she wants Dargan's love though.
Despite the confusing hero, I have actually read worse efforts from mainstream publishers, so Dargan's Desire isn't that bad. I have no problems reading this story in one sitting. Nonetheless, there are plenty of technical problems that mar the flow of the story.
For one, there are way too many incidents of head hopping, although for some reason Dargan is excluded from the party. It is common for the point of view to change from paragraph to paragraph, resulting in my sometimes feeling that I should get some Dramamine close at hand just in case I feel seasick from all that head hopping.
But a more significant problem here is that the story has no build up of momentum to elicit a sense of suspense or anticipation on my part. Ms Young seems to have a problem with sustaining a conflict or keeping things from me, because conflicts are solved shortly after they show up and, worse, Ms Young also gives me plenty of hints about upcoming events in her story from the first page. For example, in the first chapter, when Bradley proposes to Wren, I get a long paragraph from her brother's point of view pointing out how lacking Bradley is as a husband for Wren. Imagine my lack of surprise when Bradley turns out to be a not very nice guy after all. Likewise, even before Dargan's girlfriend shows up, I am told repeatedly what a terrible woman she is. Characters don't just talk to each other, they relate their life story to each other at the drop of the hat. Therefore, there is nothing new to learn about the characters as the story progresses, because the author has already spelled everything out from the start.
Still, I shouldn't complain, perhaps, about conflicts getting resolved too quickly, because Dargan's Desire would be a painful read if the many issues caused by lack of communication are allowed to drag on and on.
As far as self-published efforts go, Dargan's Desire is an average read. But if you ask me whether I can recommend this book to an average romance reader on the street, I'd just have to point at the price tag as an answer. I bought this book solely out of academic curiosity. This book is too unpolished and suffers from too many technical problems for my liking. You will have to come up with your own reasons as to why you'd pay $13.99 for this book, I'm afraid.
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