I requested Brenda Joyce’s The Promise from my local library because it was recommended in Fresh Fiction’s October Books Not to Miss. Yeah, I fell for the advertising. Do these people even read these books before recommending them?
To the best of my knowledge this is the first Joyce I’ve ever read, and I had no idea this is the 8th(!!) in “The de Warenne Dynasty” Series. Now, if you know me you know I’m a stickler when it comes to series, I generally feel compelled to read the entire series (in order) even if there’s just one that’s caught my fancy, I don’t see myself having that problem with this one (though I am marginally intrigued by the character she’s apparently set up for the next one).
So, this book claims to be a romance. The cover is all embarrassingly never-read-outside-the-house-romance-y, and my library kindly added their little heart romance sticker in case there was still any question of classification... and yet until literally the last chapter I wasn’t sure this couple was even likeable, let alone romance novel worthy.
It’s about a sea captain (the schooner on the cover serves as your warning for that, either that or the girl on the cover is sitting on the edge of a tempestuous bathtub with a very realistic tub toy ship, either way) he’s gorgeous and ridiculously wealthy (of course) and a serious man whore (who isn’t in romance novels?) and through a series of horribly contrived events he ends up married to the girl he believed from childhood he was destined to marry... and is all pissed off about it.
So angry sea captain guy, we’ll call him Alexi, since that was his name (though in a typo the book does call him Alexis at one point), up and leaves for the sea directly from his wedding... yes, no consummation, not even a kiss before or after the one little “you may now kiss the bride” one, for serious, the infuriating man up and leaves the poor girl for SIX FREAKIN’ YEARS...
So, we’re about a third of the way through the book when we discover that during the SIX FREAKIN’ YEARS Alexi has been gallivanting around the globe, his wife Elysse has been in London cultivating the image of being blissfully happy in her marriage, so blissfully happy she’s been getting down and dirty with a wide variety of men... but wait, she’s still a virgin... you mean she’s been telling people that she’s so stinkin’ happy to be married to ole what’s his name that she has to share that happiness by being a dirty dirty trollop? For reals?
So, Alexi comes back, somehow knowing about his wife being a dirty whore, and yet not knowing that she lives in London, the hometown of dirty whoriness? Uh huh. BTW, man whore is still hooking up with everything on two legs, but acknowledges the double standard, so it’s okay.
I’m going to fast forward here... there is way too much glaring and posturing in this book, I was starting to root for someone to get run over/shot/drown/thrown from a horse... anything to put me out of my misery. These people don’t hook up until well over three quarters of the way through the book... and he’s too drunk to remember it and thinks he raped her... and is still pissed off at her... and he leaves... for China... for like a year.
This is the point where the book actually gets interesting... yeah, just after page 300. The events from here until the rest of the book are actually good story telling. While the hero and heroine don’t really meet up again until like the last chapter, maybe that’s a blessing in disguise, as I said they are a bit obnoxious when facing off. There’s adventure ahoy on the high seas- pirates, stereotypical African “savages,” squicky slave traders... if Joyce could have spread this part of the book out longer and cut down the “you’re a dirty whore who trapped me into marriage”/“you don’t love me, and no I didn’t” diatribe to a chapter or even two it would be immensely more enjoyable.
Read it, don’t read it, if you do read it, skim most of it and start in on the conveniently placed “Part Three” header on page 303.