I think I capitalized that right; I really hate the headline capitalization rules, since I find they frequently look wrong when they're right and vice versa.
I am not a frequent reader of romances, but I'm not in any way opposed to them. As with any section of the bookstore, there's a lot of chaff in with the wheat, and I don't have the kind of context or network I need to find the good stuff easily. Interesting characters, a compelling story, clever dialog--I have some favorite romances. So when I see an interesting recommendation or a good premise outlined in a Netgalley blurb, I'll jump on it.
The Spinster's Secret, by Emily Larkin, had the latter going for it. Mattie is a spinster living in her uncle's dreary house. To earn money and her freedom, she writes salacious novels under the pen name Cherie. When her uncle commissions her late cousin's friend to find out who's been writing the dirty books and run them out of town, Mattie is torn between her career and her heart.
Sort of. I mean, that's not a very good description I'm giving there--she's not very torn at all. No one is here--there's really nothing keeping the hero and heroine apart. Which is fine, I think--the big strength of this book is that it's a very nice, pleasant story of two people meeting and becoming friends. I like them both very much, and they're pitted against the cartoonishly miserly and uptight uncle, which makes them positively heroic.
Isn't that cover awful, by the way? Okay, so a big point of the story is that they're neither of them very attractive people. She's six feet tall and muscular--normal-pretty, but mocked for her proportions. They spend a lot of time talking about her deep bosom and wide hips--and also how shapeless and ugly her clothes are (not that the descriptions are any more pleasing when she's out of them). He's a huge man who has been terribly scarred in battle--scarred face, limp, lost part of a hand and an ear. Does the cover above reflect this? Aside from his being pale in an unhealthy way, I don't think those people fit the description.
So I really liked the first half of this book, in a meandering, story of a relationship kind of way. Then you get to the love scenes, and ugh. It's just dry. I mean, I don't get worked up by romance sex at the best of times, but at least I like to get the impression that the characters are. These people are dutiful and plodding to the end. They enjoy having sex with each other--and that description right there is about as exciting as it gets. The sex scenes in the book-within-the-book are almost better, and they're cleaned up.
I would have given this book four stars at the halfway point, but it comes in at three in the end. I don't require hot-and-bothered, but warm-and-energetic, at least, please.