In what has become a familiar song and dance around The Pond, Wendy has once again been hording short stories on her e-reader. Oh, who am I kidding – I never really stopped. So in a bid to clean out some of the back-log, I thought I’d bundle up two reviews in one for Amanda McCabe’s most recent work for Harlequin Historical Undone. McCabe is an author who has generally worked for me in the shorter format in the past, so I settled in with high hopes for some solid reads. One worked pretty well, while the other? Not so much.
Unlacing The Lady In Waiting
16th century Scotland is all about making favorable alliances, which explains how Lady Helen Frasier has found herself betrothed to James McKerrigan. This an arrangement she is unhappy with, given that all she has heard her entire life is how vile, evil, and barbaric every McKerrigan is. But what’s a girl to do? Defy her father? Yeah, not an option. So instead she takes off for some solitude to collect her thoughts, where she runs into the most dashing man. Gee, guess who our mystery man is? Yeah. Anywho, everything seems to be going along swimmingly, until word gets to Daddy that Helen has been chosen to be a lady in waiting for Mary, Queen of Scots. The engagement is, naturally, broken – so when Helen returns to Scotland years later? Good ol’ James is there to meet her and claim his bride.
This is one of those stories where I knew where it was going before it got there. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and I’m still capable of enjoying themes, tropes, and various plot bits I’ve read numerous times before. The problem here is that we have a massive case of Insta-Lurve. Some stolen kisses and heavy petting with James (prior to knowing he’s James, of course) is enough for Helen to fall madly in love with him. And James with her. Sorry, not buying. It takes more than that for me to believe these two are in love and pining for each other while they are apart.
Lady Helen Frasier thought Highlanders were barbaric—until she shared an intimate encounter with her betrothed, James McKerrigan. Though their families were enemies, the Highland lord roused a surprising passion in Helen. Then she was chosen to become a lady in waiting to the queen, and their engagement was broken.
Now, Helen has returned to Scotland and her jilted lover, who has vowed to take revenge and claim his promised bride….
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Girl in the Beaded Mask
Lady Louise “Lulu” Hatton has escaped from her first season in London to return to the country. She suffered through dreadfully dull debutante balls and shared more than one sub-par stolen kiss with would-be suitors. The only man she has ever wanted is her brother’s best friend, David Carlisle. However, when David returned from World War I, he came home a changed man. Wounded, scarred, and haunted by the death of Lulu’s brother. When an invitation shows up for a local house party where David will be in attendance? Lulu defies her parents, dresses for the masquerade, and sets out to get her man.
This is a pretty solid story with a wonderful 1920s back-drop. Most of my issues stem from this tale not being long enough. Given the constraints of the Undone line, David’s PTSD is glossed over considerably, and while I could buy these two being in love? There’s hardly any mention of her parents, and no mention whatsoever of the fall-out of David deflowering Lulu. I mean, by all accounts her parents “like” David – but would they consider him a suitable match for their daughter? That’s another kettle of fish.
David Carlisle believes no woman would want to marry the broken and isolated man who has returned from the trenches of France. Especially vivacious Lady Louise Hatton, better known as Lulu—the one woman who makes his heart begin to thaw with her bright smile.
What David doesn’t realize is that Lulu has been fantasizing about him her whole life. And at a scandalous masked ball, she’s determined to show David just how badly she wants him….
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One of the reasons I tend to glom on to Amanda McCabe’s work is that she’s not afraid to tinker around with different settings and time periods. Just looking at her short story work for Undone, she has refused to be pigeon-holed into writing one “type” of story. Which these two particular examples illustrate quite beautifully, even if one story worked better for me than the other.