Book review: Tempting Juliana, by Lauren Royal

Amazon Kindle's been yelling at me lately that I need to update my blog or get off the pot (not in those precise terms, perhaps). Herewith I bring you a very concise book review of a romance novel I pulled from the paperback shelves at the library.

(Our library has genre paperbacks that you can borrow without checking out. They just have stickers directing you to return them when done. Does your library have that? I think it's convenient but often wonder if the library's right to trust me on the honor system. As you see, time sometimes gets away from me.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, Tempting Juliana, by Lauren Royal. Always glad to review a fellow Lauren.

This is not a new book, which is why it's hilariously available for anywhere from 1 cent up to $123.54.

There's some seller chutzpah for you.

Ok, the good: I thought it was generally well written, which is the first rule for my romance novel enjoyment. Well, duh, right? But I'm shocked at how many novels get published that are not well written, so it's not a given.

I should clarify that by "well written," I mean "tells a good story with a reasonable command of the English language." Not "literary masterpiece." Because, meh, that's not what I'm looking for in a romance novel.

I also enjoyed the historical details, such as the initiation of smallpox vaccinations, the existence of foundling homes, and the London attractions of the day, such as Napoleon's carriage and the Elgin marbles. I found out in the afterword (which I always read, for I am like that) that she took many architectural details from period homes that are open for touring. I somehow envisioned her accountant nodding along in a pleased manner as the author justified in print her travel abroad.

However, I knew right off that the author was American. And that it wasn't a novel penned by Jane Austen or her contemporaries. Because, and this is a huge one for me, she has characters calling each other by their first names. All throughout, like it ain't no thang. They try to call each other by their proper addresses, and the other character will say, "No, no, call me Scooter." And the other one will reply, "Okie doke, then, call me Pansy." And I moan and shake my head.

Call me odd (or Betty), but I like it when historical characters use titles, all proper-like, and then when they switch to first names, it means something. In a novel like this, switching to a first name might be something the character does in her head, as a fantasy, and then it slips out, revealing her true emotions. Whereas just calling them that the whole way through? It just sounds so dang modern, and American, and cazh.

The heroine also wore low necklines the entire novel, with one notable exception, whereas I understood it was more common for Regency-era dames to cloak their glory except at balls or dinner.

I also found the heroine's obtuseness in persisting in throwing together her friend and the hero and denying her own feelings for him somewhat troubling. But then they admitted their feelings for each other sooner than the climax of the book (if you'll pardon the expression), and then it was up to plot devices to keep them apart until the end.

There were some other odd parts — Emily is Juliana's young neighbor who wears a snake around her neck everywhere (yup) — only then she disappears halfway through the novel and reappears only toward the end for a plot point. If you're anti-vaccines, you might not appreciate the pro-vaccination rhetoric, though I think it can be excused on the basis of coming from the mouth of a historical character. And I realize this is just the young protagonist talking, but she kept talking about people in their 40s as being so old, and it honestly confused me, since I kept picturing people in their 80s and then being reminded that they were only a decade older than I am. (Thanks a lot.) And there was just some silliness mixed in, like the snake and the rampant making-out of multiple characters, that threw me.

Overall, I was intrigued by the book until about two-thirds through, and then it dragged for a bit, but I finished it out and was well enough pleased. So: a decent pick off the paperback shelves. Since I'm always on the lookout for another novelist I can enjoy, I think I might try one of the others in the series and see what I think.

Does it bother you when historical novels use anachronisms, or do you appreciate the modernization of ye olde times?


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