A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: All Things Beautiful by Cathy Maxwell

on December 18, 2013

The theme: Any holiday.

Why this one: I don’t have any holiday books! Not in print, anyway. Even my emergency unread Mary Baloghs failed me. I skimmed through some oldies and this one ends at Christmas, albeit rather grimly.

It’s a convenient marriage Regency, in which the socially ruined Julia is forced to marry Brader Wolf, a wealthy “cit” who only wants her estate. Julia, who comes from an unspeakably awful family, hopes to have a child to love, but Brader initially despises her and is very resistant to having any kind of real marriage. Meanwhile, Julia’s dastardly brothers are scheming about how to separate Julia from Brader, and Brader from his money.

I enjoyed this more than I expected to. Spoiled, tempestuous society beauty, that’s pretty much an instant ugh. But although Julia may have been all of those things in the past, as this story opens she’s a more mature and thoughtful person who’s learned from her bad experiences. (Though not always enough.) She tries to make the best of her situation and move forward.

I was iffier about Brader. As the story continues it becomes clear (to the reader) that he’s developed feelings for Julia, and I’m a sucker for that in a heroine-pov-only romance. But he’s often quite nasty to her, and given what we know about her past — she wasn’t even taught to read — it was hard to take. Even towards the end, he’s suspicious and accusatory. Julia also takes the occasional turn for the stupid and snobbish, which I never quite believed; it seemed out of character. And there’s a strong element of melodrama, though that’s a little bit like complaining that there’s a murder in a mystery — it’s just that kind of story. Truthfully, the main problem I had with it was that Julia seemed to do most of the pursuing, and there was no kind of payback or redemption for Brader’s bad behavior — though there is a lovely scene in which he confesses his true feelings.

This was Maxwell’s first book and it’s a smoothly written debut. It fits neatly into the angsty Regency genre while having some distinctive qualities — Julia’s character, and an epilogue that includes sorrow for the couple as well as joy.

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3 responses to “TBR Challenge: All Things Beautiful by Cathy Maxwell

  1. SuperWendy says:

    Maxwell is the ultimate “chocolate chip cookie author” for me. Her stories go down like a nice dessert wine – but then a day after I finish the book? I have, like, zero recall. They’re easy reads, but I have no retention when it comes to her work. Probably a good thing I blog about everything I read 😉

    • willaful says:

      There are times when that’s really all I want. Just a nice easy read. I do think her earlier books have more meat to them than her more recent work.

      • SuperWendy says:

        I’ve only read her later work, and yeah – that’s what I was thinking reading your review. “Wow, this sounds nothing like the books I’ve read by her!” LOL

        Yeah, sometimes all I want is that easy “undemanding” read. Which sounds very damning with faint praise – but you know what I mean. There are some authors I keep around in my TBR for just that reason alone. Read book in case of emergency 🙂

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