Books Read in 2016: ‘Trouble in Paradise’ by Liz Ireland (3 stars)
Book Summary from Goodreads:
Roy McMillan Had Vowed to Live and Die a Bachelor!
But the McMillan credo didn’t set too well the day that Ellie Fitzsimmons stepped off the train in Paradise, Nebraska. The confounded beauty lit up an October day with her sunshine. And though she was there to visit his brother, Roy had trouble keeping that fact in mind–and not making a complete fool of himself!
Ellie was in a pickle! And no amount of fabric could hide her secret for long. Roy McMillan only added to her troubles with his devastating smile. But when Roy learned the truth, would he still want to make their own little paradise on earth?
This should have been a fun, quick read—actually, it should have been a novella. There was so little story/plot in this category-length romance that there were no fewer than six viewpoint characters (possibly seven—I think I’m forgetting someone) and three romances! And the big conflict between the main couple, Ellie and Roy, was one of my pet-peeves in the genre: the Big Misunderstanding Based on an Initial Falsehood. There’s an assumption made of who she is/what her background is before she arrives in “Paradise, Nebraska,” pregnant and penniless (though Roy and his brother initially don’t know either of those facts)—that she’s a wealthy widow from New York instead of a housemaid who got pregnant from being seduced by her employer’s son. The premise wasn’t the problem. It was how the characters dealt with it that became problematic.
Roy doesn’t like women and plans on never marrying because women are nothing but trouble—a lesson he learned from his mother who walked out on him and his brother and father when he was a small child. So nothing Ellie says or does will ever convince him that she doesn’t have an ulterior motive.
Ellie, of course, is practically perfect in every way with some Manic Pixie Dream Girl characteristics.
As already mentioned, Ellie’s and Roy’s viewpoints aren’t the only ones, and theirs isn’t the only story in this short novel. We’re also given the POVs of Parker (Roy’s brother) and Clara (the girl he’s in love with) and Isabel (Roy and Parker’s wayward mother) and Uncle Ed (their father’s brother/Isabel’s actual lifelong love). Because Roy’s distrust of women and Ellie’s false identity are the only sources of conflict in their plotline (the main plotline of the book) and because he overcomes his conflict until he learns the truth about Ellie right as he’s about to propose to her, there isn’t a whole lot of tension or conflict in their relationship . . . nor a lot to their relationship at all. Which, I’m sure, is why there are two other, more poorly developed, relationships in the story to fill out the required word count.
There isn’t much to get excited about with either Ellie or Roy—although Roy does a pretty good impression of an alphahole a few times—so rather than sighing with pleasure by the time I got to the HEA at the end, I was just relieved the book was over.
And, one last thing, this would have been much better off as a sweet/clean romance. The two “sensual” scenes in the book were uncomfortable at best—especially given that Ellie is around seven or eight months pregnant during both of them. That’s not to say that pregnant women shouldn’t have/enjoy sex, but the entire pregnancy thing wasn’t well incorporated into her characterization, movements, internal life, actions/reactions, etc.—nor was it apparent in Roy’s relationship to her, whether emotional, visceral, or physical.
And now, a few words about that cover image. Roy meets Ellie at the train station, not 200 yards away from it. And the book very specifically describes the black “widow’s weeds” Ellie is wearing when she gets off the train—including being covered up with a shapeless cloak that disguises the fact that she’s six months pregnant. It’s also very specific in describing Ellie as a “tiny thing”—meaning she isn’t nearly the same height as Roy, as shown on this cover.
And, finally, this book is set in 1892. The style of her dress is almost forty to fifty years out of date (see these images from the 1840s/50s:
- 1845ish “fan” bodice with dropped waist
- mid-1850s dropped waist, button-up bodice with attached lace collar
- 1845 dropped-waist bodice with narrow pagoda sleeves
- late 1850s ruffled bodice and pagoda sleeves
While they didn’t have to put her in something like this, which is much more period appropriate (1888) and closer to what’s described in the book, and I know she was supposed to be lower/working class and the black dress she was wearing was her old maid’s dress, they could have at least tried to find a shape a little bit closer to what was in style in the late 1880s and early 1890s.
Of course, I think I found the actual inspiration for the dress they used on this cover. You can see it here.
(And, yes, I’m being far too critical of this cover—but I was awake and working on this at 4:30 a.m. and cranky and had nothing else better to do.)
My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR = DNF (did not finish)
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