Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-6554-3
Historical Romance, 2016
Like the other books by Sabrina Jeffries that had been reissued under her older pseudonym Deborah Martin, Stormswept has been revised, so in a way it promises to be better than the original, which was published back in 1995 by Topaz. I have vague recollections of that original edition – other than the cover which had the heroine in the act of pulling the sheets off the naked hero, as if she was about to do some, uh, lip service on him – so to me, this book may as well be a brand new read.
This one is more like a soap opera than a sober romance, because it has melodrama up to the brim. Years ago, Juliana St Albans accidentally stumbles upon Rhys Vaughan when he is in the midst of a gathering with his like-minded buddies who want an independent Wales. While she’s naturally a sweet and sunny bluestocking at heart (although she’s of course hot and sexy on the outside). she is the daughter of the man whom Rhys blames for his father’s suicide. What is she up to? Rhys has to find out by getting close to her, and falls in love with her in the process. Alas, when the two of them elope, her brother catches up with them after their blissful wedding night, and instigates a forced separation. Okay, that’s understating the situation: Darcy has Rhys impressed into a British man-o-war while telling Rhys that Juliana is all like, “Yes, yes, impress him, impress him!”. And of course, Darcy tells Juliana that Rhys died in a shipwreck.
And then, we cut to a few years down the road, when Juliana is about to remarry. Guess who shows up. Rhys, naturally, is all “No, I will never annul the marriage, instead I will make her pay because I know now that she is evil, a liar, blah blah blah.” The usual song and dance, in other words.
Juliana is very gullible early on, swallowing everything her brother and her father tell her, but she eventually develops a backbone as she becomes more aware of the people around her. Therefore, she’s not so bad. I don’t know what Rhys’s excuse is, however. He can be cruel, but more importantly, he is stupid. The heroine tries to tell him her side of the story, but no, he won’t listen, of course. Various secondary characters try to tell him that they saw Juliana grieving over his “death”, but no, he knows best – the wife is a lying, cheating scumbag. Seriously now, I know he has been through a traumatizing experience, but come on, his mental gymnastics consist of him basically buying a cartoon villain’s story wholesale – a villain that he knows cannot be trusted – and then shutting out all evidence that threatens to puncture his delusions of victimization at the hands of the wife.
He comes around well enough, I suppose, late in the story, but honestly, I have no idea why Juliana’s feelings for him remain so unwavering and steady when he has already demonstrated that he can be pretty nasty if he thinks that she’s not on his side. But on the bright side, our heroine doesn’t take everything from him lying down. She can give back as good when she’s had enough, and I have a good laugh when she starts getting all passive-aggressive in front of him and the household staff just to get back at Rhys. I think she can handle him when he turns into a baboon’s ass down the road.
Despite Rhys showing his rear end most of the time in this story, I actually have a pretty entertaining time reading Stormswept. A big part of this is because all the kitchen sink combination of lurid melodrama, one-dimensionally mean villains, and more results in a campy and so-silly-it’s-actually-fun read. Kind of like a Bollywood drama that works, come to think of it. The pacing never falters, and even the villains provide their share of entertainment. It also helps that the hero is never allowed to go too far by the heroine, so the story never becomes too toxic for my liking. All in all, this one is quite a diversion. I think I like it better than the author’s more recent releases, come to think of it.