I love reading short stories and novellas, although like any book or story, the format has its own pitfalls. The trick, as the author, is to come up with a storyline that will work in a shorter format and leave the reader feeling satisfied. For the most part, I really liked this new Undone by Joanne Rock, although I think it’s an instance where the plot could have benefited from a longer word count.
Simon of Longford is expecting to marry Lady Matilda, having entered into an agreement with her father. Widowed, he really needs a new wife that cannot only bring a decent dowry to the table but will also be a mother to his young daughter. Rowena is a sweet-natured child, but she’s “slow.” The medieval world is fraught with various dangers, and Simon needs a mother who will not only help raise the girl but protect her as well. He thinks he’s found that in Matilda, until her father double-crosses him. Now he’s entertaining potential suitors at his keep, basically gunning for the highest bidder. Simon is a man with no other options and is planning to literally storm the keep when who does he find wandering in the nearby woods? Yeah, no other than Lady Matilda. How’s that for luck?
What follows in Simon making off with Matilda and essentially issuing a demand to her father. It’s pretty basic medieval fair, and I like how the author explains Matilda’s presence in the woods while her father is literally hosting several men vying for her hand. I also like that Matilda is smart enough to try to lie to Simon when he finds her in the woods, and I really like that Simon actually has some deductive reasoning skills and figures out who this mysterious maiden is fairly quickly.
What doesn’t work so well is all the stuff after these two hook up. Matilda is insulted and hurt that Simon wants her for her dowry and as a mother and isn’t in love with her. OK, really cupcake? You’re a medieval heroine! You’ve already been subjected to your father trying to find a match for you that essentially resorts in a cattle call, and you’re upset that the guy who kidnaps you isn’t in love with you? Really? How dense can you get?
Also, given that they play fairly hefty roles in the backstory, the lack of page time devoted to Matilda’s father and Simon’s daughter, Rowena, is a bit disappointing. Certainly this was likely a decision made based on word count, but I find it lacking nonetheless.
Still this is a quick story with some steam that has a nice medieval feel to it. It’s a solid lunch-time read, and while I wanted more, it isn’t a reading experience I regret.
Yorkshire Coast, 1344
After paying a hefty bride-price for Lady Matilda of Glen Rising, Simon of Longford is furious when her father reneges on the agreement. Prepared to fight for what is rightfully his, Simon journeys to the earl’s stronghold–and stumbles upon the lady herself alone in the forest. He had been seeking only a suitable mother for his daughter and a dowry to reinforce his keep–he never expected his betrothed to be such a bold beauty. Now, he intends to hold Matilda captive until her father honors the wedding contract. But he cannot guarantee she will still be a maid come morning…
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