Grand Central Publishing, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4555-5182-8
Historical Romance, 2015
Rose Sherbourne, the sole unmarried character in the author’s Honeycote series, finally gets a husband in One Wild Winter’s Eve. Her story actually began in When She Was Wicked and continued throughout the series. This one can stand alone in that much of Rose’s internal demons were unveiled and somewhat resolved in those books, so this one is akin to Rose starting out a new phase in her life. But not reading those books may make some readers feel like they are missing a few pieces of the puzzle that is Rose, who knows.
Anyway, this book. Rose now wants closure when it comes to her mother, who left her children a while back and vanished without a word. Her older siblings don’t want anything to do with their mother, but Rose still remembers vividly the happier moments she spent with the woman. Even if her mother deliberately abandoned her, Rose wants to know why. She also wants to believe that, deep inside, her mother is still that woman she remembers. Rose doesn’t expect a happy reunion, but finding at the very least her mother’s whereabouts may give her a sense of peace.
To that end, under the pretense of accompanying the cranky, if rather shrewd and manipulative, Lady Bonneville to Bath as the lady’s companion, she sets out on her personal quest. It’s not that complicated, she thinks: Lady Bonneville will be staying at the home of a woman who knows Rose’s mother, so perhaps Rose can get some information out of her. Quickly after her arrival, Rose spots a letter, written in her mother’s hand, with Lady Yardley. Maybe she has to some snooping around… only to be discovered rummaging through her host’s table by the steward, Charles Holland. He also happens to be the object of her infatuation when she was just a little younger. They weren’t meant to be then, as he’s working at the stables while she’s of noble blood, but now, they are older, and she’s determined to seize that one chance at happiness when it arises.
This story seems pretty interesting on paper, and for the first half or so, it is a rock solid read. The author has, it seems, mastered the art of cutting me down into blubbering mess with just a few scenes. I am a cynical person, as I’m sure long-time visitors can tell, but she can create sweet, quiet scenes that should be icky and too-sweet, but instead, I just devour every word and hum the love theme from the movie While You Were Sleeping under my breath. Rose and Charles feel so right together, and I like how they walk and seem to understand one another on a visceral level. Charles is another one of the author’s too-good, yet just too-adorable hero. The way he moves mountains and parts the waves just for Rose makes me sigh happily. It’s really sweet how he remains devoted to Rose all this while.
And then everything goes wrong. No, let rephrase that. EVERYTHING JUST GOES WRONG, AAAAARGH!!! Where’s the button that lets me make that previous sentence blow up into huge-ass dimensions? Because that’s how I feel when this book lumbers into its second half. If you look at my face while I’m turning those pages, you’d probably think I’m a furious and very hungry living dead monster or something, because I’m that disgruntled.
You see, I’m very caught up in the story of Rose and her mother. I want to know what happened to that mother, and whether there is a possibility of a second chance at being a family again. In the past, the author has demonstrated that she can create characters with depths, and I guess I’m a softie enough to want that mother, who is shaping up to be a tragic victim of her self-destructive behaviors, to finally find some peace in life too. I have the tissues ready in anticipation of a good cry. I have plans to watch While You Were Sleeping again after finishing this book.
But what do I get? Rushed and choppy transitions. Increasingly unbelievable plot twists, culminating in our heroine staging a prison breakout at gunpoint and running away from the police with the hero by her side. What is this, when did this story turn into a B-grade action flick again? Did I miss something? All cues were leading to an emotional, drama-heavy story, so I am gobsmacked when these things happen. It’s like dating a hot and charming guy only to have him noisily turn into a were-gorilla and swing from the chandeliers. Worst, the mother turns out to be a mere plot device, there is no closure for her and her children, and instead the author wastes precious pages on sexy times between Charles and Rose instead. Who cares about two people having sex? I can read such scenes in any random romance novel. I want strong, emotional scenes of Rose, her siblings, and their mother, because that’s the basic premise of the entire story!
Argh, I could stick a knife into a happy kitten by the last page, because I feel that I’ve been left completely high and dry.
I want to give One Wild Winter’s Eve one oogie out of spite, but I can’t deny that I really like the first half of the book. I don’t know what happened – maybe the full moon came out, maybe the author took the same serum that did poor Dr Henry Jekyll in – but I guess I have enough residual feeling of goodwill to give this one, with great reluctance, three oogies. No, really, what happened during that second half of the book?