Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Broken Promise by Kyla Harmon

My Experience:  C
Synopsis:  The Society wedding of her dreams turns to kidnapping, betrayal, and murder… The country home of the Earl of Devon is a rambling limestone edifice just outside Exeter. The stately woods and meadows surrounding it contribute to its widely acclaimed warmth and charm. But when a mysterious fire destroys the family apartments, the earl, his countess, and their lovely daughter, the Lady Alexandra, are all believed dead. Mourning the loss of his fiancĂ©, Oliver, Duke of Somerset, marries another to secure the line of succession.
Struggling with betrayal and resentment, Alexandra tries to piece together what went so very wrong in her life. Escaping from the sanatorium where she’s been kept captive for three years, she’s determined to discover who was responsible for her parents’ deaths and her confinement. But when she finds Oliver—now widowed and with a child—she realizes things have changed. And they only become darker when she learns the treachery runs deep…

Recently, I wanted a break from the Modern Formula of the Red Headed Beauty and Lord Man Boobs.  I found myself longing for an Old Style Regency Formula with a peaceful, maybe a bit intrepid, woman and a hero worthy of loving from the very beginning. I wanted sympathetic characters that love in spite of obstacles that were not each other, an out and out villain, a bit of suspense and if possible, a touch of gothic shiver.  Reading the sample pages and synopsis, this book fit the bill.

It is technically everything you could ask for.  I liked how the story wove the past together, mixing the tragic with the happy memories to bring the reader forward to the present.  The pacing was nice, the plot plausible (mostly) and there was an asylum to provide my shiver.  Writing was technically spot on, dialog well done, the elements of Faith gently handled.  Overall the story was historically reasonable with just enough humor to keep me reading.  Unfortunately, for me, the couple in this story were not enough to satisfy my craving.

Lexie, cries often, is comforted much and spends too much time in Oliver's lap.  The only thing I found intrepid about her was the escape and shooting from a moving carriage, both of which stretched the plausibility factor for me.  Her recovery is not only remarkable, it is unbelievable and made her feel like a shell of a heroine.  She says and does all the correct things, far sooner than I imagine would be possible.  After three years in an asylum following the horrifying moments of finding her parents murdered, she seems too coquettishly childlike to be a survivor, or a future duchess.  Even her well defined refusal to see the baby seems childish in view of all she's lost and experienced.

Oliver was ...  sad. Being widowed, after loosing his father, after returning from Spain and the plaguey war memories, would make even an intrepid hero sad.  Except sad doesn't really fit his thoughts or his actions.  He's so relieved by the death of his wife I actually cringed for her and later, I found my sympathy for him to be non-existent.  In fairness, before we really get a feel for him, Lexie returned ... and all his sorrow was dismissed, over, poof, magik!  He was decisive, energized and ready to kick some bad guy butt. These two did not click for me, either as individuals or as a couple; they felt contrived bordering on Mary & Martin Sue at times.  I wanted to believe in the worthy hero and peaceful heroine but I choked on Oliver and Lexie.

Aside from my disconnect, I was disappointed by the reduction of the first wife to a villainous specter so early in the book.  This ruined the premise of "life went on" and totally removed that obstacle.  Infant in the nursery was never a true obstacle, only a convenient one. After all, as Oliver said:  "Lexie always loved kittens and puppies, so I figured the baby would wrap her around his little fingers in short order."  On behalf of infants everywhere, I give a rude, squishy sound that wafts of yesterday's peas.... Puppies and kittens, indeed!

The secondary characters were not as endearing as they were meant to be because they were too two-dimensional.  To me it read as if an RPG (role playing game) program for NPs (non playing characters) generated their looks, likes, flaws and skills.  I have sisters, I have daughters - seldom are we so confined to our "labels" as these characters were.  We strive to tone down our flaws, emphasize our strengths and we help each other to do a bit better everyday.  When did the trend to write indulged, rude brats (no matter how well-intentioned) as potential future heroines begin?  It seems like it will never end....

I guess I wanted more from these character for this plot if that makes sense.  Emotionally, it didn't work for me.  I was never breathless, never worried, there was no doubt it would all work out and everyone would sing at the end.  I just didn't connect to these characters, not even when I re-read it to be sure it wasn't the result of a bad reading day. There is always the possibility I'll read this later and it will be the perfect read on a really, really bad day. Since I paid more than I ever have for a new author, I certainly hope so.  I haven't given up on Ms. Harmon, because she crafted a good plot and writes well.  I just hope she grows emotionally braver with her characterizations for her next book.


  1. If you're gonna be strong and escape from a sanatorium .... You can't keep bawling thought the book.
    I get one good cry in the face of all you've ... Faced lol and maybe bad dreams for the rest of your life, but if you start out as a strong character don't go all wimpy on me :p
    How old is the heroine any way?

  2. the crying made sense - in context - but it was the only real response to the three year confinement. That's what didn't work for me. Love isn't a magic wand for trauma, especially not three years of trauma - no matter how much we wish it.