Fallen / Celeste Bradley
And so we go from a historical romance that I recommend whole-heartedly to one I can only recommend half-heartedly. Or perhaps that I can recommend half of whole-heartedly.
“Eppie” Eppingham is in a spot. After being invited to the Lady Celia’s room he finds himself too drunk to remember which room is in fact hers. Startled by an unexpected intruder in her bed, Lady “Izzy” Isadora promptly smashes him in the head with a candlestick. The noise attracts others. In order to save face, Izzy claims that Eppie is her fiancé. Stuff continues to go on from there.
So how is it?
It’s really hard to say. The first half is pretty fun, full of witty exchanges and the occasionaly excessive humor at the expense of Izzy’s Aunt and Uncle whose name I can’t remember but it might as well be Dursley. The relationship between Izzy and Eppie Julian (thank goodness she decides to refer to him by his middle name because seriously “Eppie” isn’t really any better than “Eppingham”) is entertaining. Izzy’s discovery that much of her perceived low-status was her own self-pity, Julian’s best friend Eric Caldwell, and the relationship between Izzy and Celia are also high points.
Unfortunately, about halfway through the whole thing takes a turn for the depressing. The last half of the book is a slog. Character’s don’t really have conversations anymore so the dialogue that was the highlight of the first half is mostly lost. Instead we get a series of horrifying revelations that end up going mostly nowhere leading up to a lackluster ending.
The second half feels like Bradley didn’t really know where things were going because the book was pretty much ready to wrap up around the 150 page mark, so they threw in as many clichéd “dark” plot twists as they could. It might have worked out okay if there was just one of these twists, but it seems like Bradley couldn’t make up their mind which to include so they decided to include everything. What this means is that we get to experience the terrible revelations but those revelations don’t really end up getting addressed in any meaningful way. They are either resolved almost immediately or exist exclusively to power the angst of the main characters. One of these revelations would have powered an entire novel, so the continuous appearance of new “shocking” information is disappointing.
I know that refusing to express their feelings is a driving force behind like 75% of historical romance novels but here it’s magnified to absurd extremes as characters end relationships with longtime friends based on assumptions without even explaining or asking or any sort of communication.
When it comes to newtype historical romance I’d probably avoid recommending this one. Sarah MacLean is still my go-to recommendation in the genre, followed by Liz Carlyle or Stephanie Laurens. The first half of this book is great and I’d love to recommend it but the rest is just so disappointing I’m not likely to inflict it on anyone.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author. I have at least one more by them in my stack of upcoming books and I’m definitely willing to give them another chance based on the strength of the first half of Fallen.