This rant has absolutely nothing to do with the book I’m about to discuss. At all. The following can just go to hell:
- the sun
- my hair
- dirty floors
- deep cleaning projects that I put off for months
- the madness that infects toddlers and makes them whine
- the madness within me that makes toddler whining my kryptonite
It’s entirely possible that 8 and 9 are actually the same thing. Anyway, I’ve been trying to write about this book for a few weeks, now, but stuff just kept coming up. Like I’d intend to sit and write the review, and then I’d notice that the floor was filthy. Then my kids brought fleas home from preschool, and hormones attacked me, and my youngest started an excessive campaign of whining, and I lost my prescription sunglasses only to find them days later in the diaper bag (WHY did I put them there?), and my hair is evil, and I just didn’t have anything to say other than all this. It happens.
The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:
It would be unwise to mistake me for an innocent debutante—for years I have graced the smoky gloom of many a billiards club and honed my skills at my father’s side.
But now he has a new protégé—Captain Greer Barrington—and while my father would see me attract the attentions of an eligible lord I, Mercedes Lockhart, have other ambitions. Even if that means seducing the captain to earn back my father’s favor! I know I must avoid falling for Greer’s charming smile but his sensual kisses could be worth the risk.
When I saw A Lady Risks All on NetGalley, I waffled for a few weeks on whether to request it. I worried, based on the publisher’s blurb, that it would be told in the first person, and I’m not the biggest fan of that narrative format. Eventually my curiosity won out, and I actually loved the book, partly because it is, thankfully, told in a more standard third-person narrative. Also, it’s fantastic.
It’s about billiards, mostly, which isn’t a phrase I ever expected to write when talking about a romance novel. It’s also about a difficult father/daughter relationship and historical gender politics that gave men the freedom to be go-getters but fettered women to serve some purpose for their families — they could marry well, perhaps, or serve the household or, as in Mercedes’ case, use whatever technical skills they possess to further their families’ self-serving interests. It’s a story of a woman who is done with being defined by her usefulness to her father, a woman who wants to establish her own place in the world and start being useful to herself.
I’ve got to say, I applaud these types of stories. I may have mentioned here and there on this blog (read: in almost every freaking post) that I love how subversive the romance genre can be; this book is an excellent example of that subversion in practice. Mercedes is the very opposite of the innocent miss we (the cultural we) tend to associate with the genre: she’s experienced (if you know what I mean) and shrewdly intelligent, plays billiards better than both Greer and her father (which means better than anyone in the history of ever), and teaches Greer how to hustle. But while she’s lacking in the softness and innocence that tends to signify femininity in our culture, she’s all woman. In other words, she tolerates the limitations of her gender and class until the time is right to break free. (In other words, it’s possible that our culture has an inaccurately narrow view of feminine traits.)
Did I love everything about the book? No, not really. There was a wee bit too much billiards talk for me, and sometimes it seemed that the billiards story eclipsed the romance storyline. It’s more accurate to say that it felt more like Mercedes’ story than Mercedes and Greer’s story. Greer possessed a fine smolder, but he wasn’t quite a strong or vibrant enough character to contrast favorably with Mercedes, who is simply fantastic. Finally, the ending, while satisfying, was a bit abrupt.
But, you know what? I enjoyed the heck out of this story. Readers who are interested in billiards, gender politics and stories with strong heroines who triumph over all, and — of course — lovers of historical romance should check this one out and keep an eye on Bronwyn Scott. I imagine she’s got many more interesting stories in store for us.
A Lady Risks All was released on June 18, 2013 as an e-book and mass-market by Harlequin Historical. For more information about the book, click on the cover above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads. For more information about Bronwyn Scott, visit her website.
*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*