Boroughs Publishing Group, $0.99, ISBN 978-1-941260-29-6
Historical Romance, 2014
Madelyn LeCavalier is a seamstress working at the Abberley Theater, London. She is also pretty badly scarred in the face after an attack by a crazed villain about two years ago. Since then, she has deliberately resisted the attentions of Will Renshaw, a man who is so devoted to her that he insists that he doesn’t see her scars, only the beautiful woman he has fallen in love with. Of course, Maddy knows that she is now hideous, and she also knows that one day Will will realize this too, so she must push him away even if it breaks her heart to do so. It’s not easy to avoid him, though, considering that he’s currently managing the theater in the owner’s absence.
Eventually Maddy pulls herself together and stop hiding, only to learn that, to her dismay, Will wants to marry her. He’s the son of a viscount, for heaven’s sake! Why can’t he be content with an affair?
Maddy and the Gambler is quite a short story, which is no doubt the biggest reason for its complete inability to deliver even half of the possibilities present in its intriguing premise. The heroine is badly scarred, but the only problem here is her own self-pity – she has a strong support network around her, and the hero is besotted to a creepy degree. Therefore, that aspect of the story is actually a non-issue, as there is really nothing here that challenges Maddy’s ability to get her groove back.
I find Will creepy because he uses some of the most purple phrases ever to express his feelings for Maddy. Did someone say Pepé Le Pew? More troubling is how he rarely recognizes the fact that Maddy may have valid reasons to want to withdraw from society. Instead, he pushes her to come out and dine with him in public, going as far as to make her reveal her scars to the people around her. Maddy is right when she accuses him of being responsible for some of the biggest humiliations she’d experienced since her scarring, but at the same time, it’s not like she has to agree with whatever Creepy Le Pew wants her to do, right? Back to Creepy, from his rigid single-minded obsessiveness to lack of awareness to Maddy’s needs and moods, coupled with his purple prose, he actually exudes a greater degree of stalker mode than I’d have liked.
I like that Maddy’s attitude in more in tune to someone in her station or position in her time. She doesn’t pine for true love with Will – in fact, she’s aghast at how he’s willing to throw everything away just to marry her. However, this aspect of the story is wrapped up in a rushed and tidy manner due to the length of the story, and the pay off is generally unsatisfying all around.
As a quick read, Maddy and the Gambler is decent and painless, quickly forgotten once it’s over. However, there are some glimmers of possibilities to suggest that it could be a more memorable story if the author had spent a bit more time and more words to develop this tale better.