~ Had promising story and main characters, but book's writing and plot were disappointing - amateurish and simple (3 stars) ~
This is the first book I have read by Gabriella Anderson and it was by no means horrible - in fact, it held such promise that I think I will try some more of her books before I give up on her. I don't know how else to say this without sounding so harsh, but although the plot seemed very promising and the main characters had a lot of potential to be strong and appealing characters, the writing and the story ended up being far more amateurish than I expected. (There were also smaller annoyances that I've detailed below).
Everything happened too simply and neatly, as if Anderson was given a recipe or instruction book and she just added in some more descriptions and slightly expanded on it, without really creating anything original, interesting or engaging. The book didn't have much depth and I had never suspected that would be the case since we are given a tortured hero who has experienced such difficulties, but I felt that in the end the story really just skims the surface. EVER YOURS had such promise - and was therefore all the more disappointing - but it seemed like a rough first draft, not a final version; it contains none of the complexity or depth that Lisa Kleypas' and Mary Balogh's books have (two of my favorite HR writers). Mainly for this reason, I wouldn't recommend reading this book; there are much better historical romances out there.
SUMMARY (from back cover):
~ Could a letter change her life? ~
"Ivy St. Clair doesn't think so, but she's certain that the missive from eccentric Lord Stanhope, who has named her as one of his heirs, will at least provide adventure. And adventure is the one thing sure to be missing from her life when she marries Neville Foxworthy as her family expects her to do.
To inherit from Stanhope, she must deliver a portrait to reclusive Auburn Seaton, Earl of Tamberlake. No one has seen the man, badly injured in a carriage accident, for mroe than five years. But Seaton's scars are far less interesting than his melancholy, and Seaton himself - gentle, kind, and dangerously appealing - is everything her distasteful fiance is not. Before long Ivy realizes that the unlikely friendship they find together has deepened into the kind of love she will risk name and fortune to claim ..."
PRAISE: (*includes spoilers*)
~ I liked that Ivy takes the initiative and is the one to proposition Auburn when they first make love.
~ As I said before, the hero and heroine had *great* potential - both very strong, opinionated, admirable characters; Anderson's writing and her story's lack of depth fail them, however.
~ While I first thought Auburn's mother was going to be an annoying -w-itch, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she wasn't one-dimensional and although her relationship with her son and treatment of Auburn after his accident is shameful, she is a more complicated character than we are initially led to believe and turns out to be a better person than I first expected.
~ Christopher, Ivy's brother, is endearing and definitely adds to the book.
CRITICISM: (*includes spoilers*)
~ Auburn and Ivy don't know each other that well before they have sex; though page-wise it occurs a decent portion into the book, I didn't feel that their relationship had deepened to that level yet.
~ Ivy propositions Auburn after her betrothal becomes official and I found this dishonest on her part; she's technically cheating. I know we don't want her to end up marrying Wynbrooke anyway, but she's the one who agreed to so she should hold to the promise that entails.
~ Ivy is supposed to be a strong, individual, and opinionated woman ... so why is she bowing to her father's demands and marrying Wynbrooke? She says at one point that at least he's a good man, but at that point in the book from what we've seen he isn't (!) - he's been repeatedly rude to Auburn and has made horrible comments about the "monster earl" behind his back (while he's enjoying the man's generosity and hospitality).
~ We never hear from Ivy how she sees Auburn (physically). I know she isn't bothered by his scars and that's wonderful, but at some points the things she says seem almost idiotic and oblivious, as if she doesn't actually realize he has any disfigurement or handicap. She reacts differently than most other people and that is commendable and laudable, but I would have liked to know whether it was that she looks at his scars and sees them and just doesn't shy away from them or whether when she looks at Auburn she really does not see any scars/ignores them.
~ Lord Stanhope seems like he was a good and intelligent man, yet he was supposed to be in love with Ivy's mother (which is why he leaves Ivy a bequest). Lady Dunleigh, however ... does not seem good and intelligent (rather "flighty," "vapid," and "superficial" come to mind).
BOTTOM LINE and SIMILAR BOOKS:
Skip it and if you want to read good historical romances where the hero or heroine has scars or a handicap, I would suggest one of these four instead (I've ranked them in order, with the first book featuring the issue most prominently, the last one doing so the least): (1) SIMPLY LOVE (Simply Quartet, Book 2) by Mary Balogh; (2) and (3) equally, SCANDALOUS (Banning Sisters Trilogy, Book 1) by Karen Robards and A NOTORIOUS LOVE (Swanlea Spinsters, Book 2) by Sabrina Jeffries; (4) TAMING RAFE (Bancroft Brothers, Book 2) by Suzanne Enoch.