AWD Publishing, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-940149-29-5
Historical Romance, 2018
You know, I’d be very interested to know why every historical romance set in 19th century that has an American will always have that American acting like concepts such as social classes and privilege are completely unheard of in that country of theirs. Is this because the author wants that American to come off like a buffoon, or is it because me, the reader, is assumed to be the buffoon that will buy this concept wholesale? Every country has its own type of class differences, and the class at the top comes with privilege. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either too privileged and hence has a blind spot about these things, or just naïve.
Therefore, it can be a bumpy ride from the start of Of Risk & Redemption when the American hero Rorrick Trowlson shows up acting like it is so British (ugh) for a gaming hall to be closed during the earlier parts of the day. I suppose back in those days brothels and casinos in 19th century America open all day in the name of democratic hedonism for all? He then accuses our gaming hall owner heroine Cass, Lady Desmond, of using her ample charms to seduce his late brother into honoring a wager he’d lost. Wait, I thought in America, the land of all that is good and holy, it is a good thing to honor agreements and promises? I don’t think Rorrick is naïve, he’s just the rear end of a bull mastiff.
Unfortunately, our heroine needs Rorrick to help her get to America and locate some missing people, so she tells him that he’d get back the tract of land his late brother lost if he’d help her get to America. She has exhausted all leads and no one else can help her, you see, so she has to resort to asking a man who calls her all flavors of prostitute just because he’s in a bad mood and has a case of intelligence deficiency.
Fortunately, things get better if the reader exercises some patience with the hero and keep reading after the cringe-inducing first handful of pages. You see, Cass will have nothing of his nonsense, so she gives him a glorious dressing down that makes her a goddess in my book. And this is where I have a dilemma. On one hand, it’s nice that Rorrick immediately sobers up and goes oh my god, she’s right. That’s nice, and my blood pressure is better for it. On the other hand, that quick and unrealistic turnaround is a symptom of my issue with this story: way too often, emotional conflicts are resolved way too quickly and even flippantly to be believable. This issue stands out because, despite the story being set up as a road trip romance to America, nothing particularly dramatic or exciting happens. The main characters have plenty of time to psychoanalyze one another, and hence it stands out after a while how lifelong issues in this story are often dramatically reduced or even eliminated after a talk, a hug, an enthusiastic romp in bed, or all three. Sure, sex is great, but I only wish it works as well in real life to turn us all into happy, shiny people, I tell you.
Also, note that despite being a lady of experience and an owner of a gambling house, Cass is actually a familiar and even safe heroine. She needs sexual healing, has a lot of insecurities about her looks and sex appeal that only the hero can overcome with vigorous bouts of bedroom therapy, and so forth. I hope no one is expecting some saucy seductress here, as disappointment only awaits those who are.
At any rate, Of Risk & Redemption is actually a very safe story – the author doesn’t take much risk when it comes to her story or characters, and the redemption part is a bit too tidy to be believable. I have no issues with the style or technique, but I wish the emotions had been more volatile and messy, and hence more believable.