I don’t usually like romances. They’re too formulaic–beautiful, feminine woman falls for gruff man with a bad history. Man breaks the woman’s heart, but the man eventually overcomes his faults and the woman and the man live happily ever after. Or the author writes the woman as an empty shell with very little personality so that the reader can place herself (the reader in romances is usually a woman, though not always), and then the romantic interest is so stunningly handsome that the reader falls madly in love with him at the same time as the heroine.
I was a little bit nervous to take part in the blog tour for Lies and Letters by Ashtyn Newbold. I didn’t want to be disappointed by another poorly-written romance taking place in what I now know is called the regency era in England. But as I read, I was drawn in from page one. You see, this romance isn’t like any other I’ve read: the woman is a shallow, selfish jerk, and that is plain to see from the very first page. On page one, I was drawn in by the crisp writing, and by page two I absolutely hated Charlotte.
Charlotte Lyons is the most beautiful woman in Canterbury, destined to marry someone of wealth and status, and to do so is her greatest dream in life. It doesn’t matter who will get in her way–whether it is a person who cannot play the pianoforte with as much skill as her, or her very own younger sister–she will make all eyes see her, want her, think only of her. At one point, Charlotte goes to such lengths to make her sister Clara miserable that she tears apart a romance novel that Clara is reading, page by page, in front of Clara.
Yeah, the destruction of a beloved book is a sin worthy of death.
When Charlotte’s father brings his family to ruin by running up gambling debts, Charlotte and Clara’s mother sends them away to the seaside village of Craster, where no one will recognize them or know of their father’s misdeeds. There, Charlotte is supposed to woo the Lord Trowbridge, the Earl of Craster, marry him, and rise above her station. Basically, she’s supposed to play the long con to secure herself and her family for life.
By the time Charlotte and Clara reach Craster, I feel deeply for both of them. I feel pity and connection for Clara, the younger sister always living in her older sister’s shadow, never doing enough to win her mother’s love and affection, yet somehow the sweeter for it. And for Charlotte, I feel a deep sense of disgust. I kept reading, hoping to see Charlotte earn her comeuppance. I’ve never wanted petty revenge on a character so much–if I could reach into the book, grab Charlotte by the shoulders, and smack her hard across the face whilst giving her a talking-to, I would have. This story is told in first-person, which is risky in any situation, and especially so with such a detestable character.
Things don’t go as planned for Charlotte and Clara, of course, and as Charlotte spends time in Craster she gradually begins to change. Charlotte gets her comeuppance, but by that time she’s changed just enough that I’ve started to see the beginnings of goodness in her. The “revenge” I’d wanted felt bitter. I felt absolutely sick, horrified for Charlotte. I’d wanted revenge, I’d wanted her to get justice for her terrible behavior, but…not that.
This is a romance, but part of the fun is discovering that romance. So I’m not going to tell you about any of it. Just know that it grows more or less naturally, far better than in other romance novels I’ve read. Of course, Charlotte doesn’t want to admit that she’s falling in love. She’s grown up thinking that love only happens in romance novels and fairy tales, and that all good matches are done because the husband and wife are compatible in the same social circles and with their wealth. It takes Clara, in part, to show her how wrong she is and to open her eyes to the possibility of love.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It was obviously a romance, but it had everything I look for in any novel: relatable and believable characters, an interesting plot, character development that happens so naturally it never feels false, and a redemption that we can all learn from. I don’t recommend many romance novels, but I recommend this one. If you are interested in a good, clean romance that makes you feel for every character, go and buy Lies and Letters today.
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Ashtyn Newbold discovered a love of writing early in high school. Inspired by regency period romance, she wrote her first novel at the age of sixteen. Because she can’t vacation in her favorite historical time periods, she writes about them instead. When not crafting handsome historical heroes, she enjoys baking, sewing, music, and spoiling her dog. She dreams of traveling to England and Ireland. Ashtyn is currently studying English and creative writing at Utah Valley University. She lives in Lehi, Utah with her family.
View other blogs on the blog tour at Cedar Fort Publishing.
I received a free copy of this book for my honest review.