Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: Beguiled by Paisley Smith

Beguiled by Paisley Smith
Kindle eBook only
Beguiled is actually a very decent historical romance. Set during the Civil War, the story opens with a bunch of Yankee soldiers raiding Belle's home. Belle is a dainty and once-well off Southern Belle (ha), now struggling to keep her home going with very little help, her husband missing in the war, and with deserters and soldiers from both sides constantly 'foraging'. She's managed to hide her little herd of dairy goats, and they're one of my favourite parts of the story.

Alice is an Irish immigrant girl, raised in poverty up north. Masculine in appearance, she had disguised herself successfully as a soldier to fight for Freedom. Wounded in battle, her sex was discovered and she is left behind, along with another gutshot soldier, as part of an agreement to leave the farm alone. Belle is enormously attracted, to the point that when Alice orders her to bend over and lift her skirts... she does. Belle is fragile and vulnerable and lonely, Alice is falling hard, and they're soon mutually seducing each other (although it's a fairly dom/sub relationship). And finally, Alice has to admit that she is actually in love with a woman.

It's definitely mature, with the two women having sex a lot (graphically and often enough that I'm tagging this as 'erotica'), someone dying in the first couple of pages, and some violence later. But it isn't cheesy or ridiculous - this is just a warning that this isn't one of the fluffiest of happy historical romances!

 Some of the 'colloquial' language for female parts and so forth was a little offputting (in a suspension of disbelief way), but it could have been worse (*coughThePrincess'sBridecough*), and writing sex from the perspective of a historical character must be pretty difficult. And much as Uncle Hewlett was a great character, I also felt he'd only been freed (and stuck around) to ensure that the family was seen as Good, sidestepping any ethical debates over slaves. This matters, as our gracious hostess is a Yankee supporter, while Alice is a fervent abolitionist - a significant point of difference.

The main problem is that it's too short. Not exactly in an 'I want more' way, but in a pacing way. It reads like the first half of a story. I was convinced I was less than halfway through and the story was about to pick up into the real meat of the story and the climax, when I realised I was 70% of the way through. And then it was over. The ending is tentatively good - the women are together, happy and determined to stick it out together - but all we really get is the mutual attraction, sex, sexual chemistry and gradual emotional development.

On the other hand, it's less than six dollars for the eBook, so that's not so bad!

You can download Beguiled from Amazon for $5.99 (available as an eBook only)

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