When Betsey Dobson disembarks from the London train in the seaside resort of Idensea, all she owns is a small valise and a canary in a cage. After an attempt to forge a letter of reference she knew would be denied her, Betsey has been fired from the typing pool of her previous employer. Her vigorous protest left one man wounded, another jilted, and her character permanently besmirched. Now, without money or a reference for a new job, the future looks even bleaker than the debacle she left behind her.
But her life is about to change … because a young Welshman on the railroad quay, waiting for another woman, is the one finally willing to believe in her.
Mr. Jones is inept in matters of love, but a genius at things mechanical. In Idensea, he has constructed a glittering pier that astounds the wealthy tourists. And in Betsey, he recognizes the ideal tour manager for the Idensea Pier & Pleasure Building Company.
After a lifetime of guarding her secrets and breaking the rules, Betsey becomes a force to be reckoned with. Together, she and Mr. Jones must find a way for her to succeed in a society that would reject her, and figure the price of surrendering to the tides of love …
The heroine is feisty and hardened, and this defensive nature leads her to make choices and comments outside the bounds of what’s expected of a historical female, and I liked it. I often felt heartache when her damaged nature showed through, and I was invested in her journey.
The author’s voice is definitely unique with a bent for literary depth and she often writes a clever turn of phrase. Her characters and plot also don’t follow typical expectations, which is a bold approach for a debut novelist. For instance, (*spoiler ahead, skip to next paragraph to avoid it*) when the heroine and hero have sex for the first time, it’s far from romantic fireworks and basking in adoration. Quite the opposite. But Atlee pulled it off because it made sense for the characters, and although the romantic in me was disappointed, the reader and editor in me really appreciated the scene.
The author also gets kudos for the Pinterest collection of helpful tidbits on the era and setting.
I didn’t care for the hero’s speech pattern. He’s Welsh, so perhaps that has something to do with it, but on paper he sounded an awful lot like Yoda at times, which is just about the worst imagery parallel for a romantic hero as you can get. An example from a randomly opened page just now: “Rule the world and any man in it, you could, wearing that frock.” (eh, not a great example) This was such a shame because I liked his inner character well enough, but my overall feeling towards him wasn’t what it should have been. I suppose it’s that I liked him as a character, but not as a leading-man in a romance.
Beyond that, I can’t put my finger on why I didn’t entirely love this book. I really wanted to, but something just didn’t resonate for me.
Overall though, I’m still glad to have read this book, and glad to have discovered Alison Atlee. I think she has a lot of potential for originality and I look forward to reading her next book.
Favorite quote: (setting: the hero helps heroine prep for a business meeting) [Mr. Jones] was uncommonly bad at seduction if he though talk of common capital and incorporation would do the trick, but she could think of no other reason he would lavish her with such time and care.
Except the impossible one: No motive but to help her. Such purity didn’t exist, though. If it did …
If it did, he’d be a dangerously good seducer.
More quotes at Goodreads
Publication: Trade paperback and ebook from Gallery Books (January 29, 2013)
Similar reading: I can’t say I’ve read anything quite like this in tone, era or setting.