Jasper De Vere doesn't do sad. Ever since the death of his parents, he’s devoted himself to life’s many pleasures—while making sure to avoid attachments. It’s difficult to avoid your own grandfather though, especially when you’re the heir to his Dukedom. Unable to sit by and watch one of the few people he cares about wither away, Jasper flees to his friend Nicholas’s country estate.
Julia Bishop leads a life of glorious excitement—in her head. The spinal injury she was born with makes her a permanent pariah in society, so despite being the daughter of an earl, she's spent her life in the country with just her family to keep her company. When her brother-in-law’s flirtatious—and devilishly handsome—friend mistakes her for an untroubled debutante, Julia isn’t about to let an opportunity for some real, live adventure slip away.
Delicious distraction and flirtation turn into an all-out affair, and slips dangerously close to something more when family intrudes. Can Jasper and Julia return to their separate lives in isolation, or will they take a risk and choose each other?
I enjoyed this gutsy, unique romance from new-to-me author, Kimberly Bell. Though I think the book struggled with some pacing and plotting issues, it was an interesting, worthwhile reads for everyone who loves bold heroines and atypical MCs.
When I read that this was a romance with a female main character with spina bifida, I couldn't pass it up. I can count on maybe one hand the number of romances I've read with a female MCs with any type of disability or affliction, and I was positively gleeful that we might see some representation of spina bifida in romance.
First of all, from a medical perspective, everything seemed on the up and up. I have only a passing familiarity with spina bifida, but it seems like the author did her research and tried to be as true as possible to the issues of someone with spina bifida occulta would have. Sure, Kimberly Bell probably had to stretch things as surviving any type of medical affliction back in the setting of the book would have been unusual, but it felt very honest and not sugar-coating things.
I loved the trickery in the beginning of the story, and I was gearing up for the book to really wow me with some twists and turns. However, after the male MC, Jasper, a rakish newly appointed Duke, finds out that Julia is indeed permanently afflicted, I started to have issues.
First of all, I thought that Jasper took Julia's condition and her fooling him way too well. It was like he wasn't at all concerned that she had, as Julia called it, an "exposed spine condition," which I found to be unrealistic. In that day and age, it would have been a highly unusual thing, and so I thought Jasper would have been more curious, more cautious. I also thought he would have been a bit more peeved to be kept in the dark for as long as he was.
I also found that the pacing dropped off at that point. It felt a little meandering, like the author was just buying time until she could wrap up the loose ends, and the plot didn't have the same tension as before. I found myself putting the book down more often at that point, even starting another story in the interim.
However, despite my issue with the plotting, I kept coming back to the story because of the spunky, outspoken female MC. Julia is bold and brave, not letting people's opinion of her and her affliction stand in her way. She is smart and sensual, and I loved that she just really defied and rose above people's expectations of her. I was happy that Jasper appreciated all that she was, and it was refreshing to have such an independent female MC, though I don't know how historically accurate the details of the story actually were.
All in all, this was a worthwhile, interesting story, with characters not usually found in romance, though category-romance is getting more and more inclusive every day. I think Kimberly Bell is on the right track.
*Copy provided in exchange for an honest review*
Enjoy, my friends!