Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review: Stand and Deliver Your Love by Killarney Sheffield


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When Killarney Sheffield contacted me about reviewing her books, she gave me a choice from her titles. I took a look at her backlist and the premise of Stand and Deliver Your Love intrigued me the most.

Here's what drew me to it: Sarah, the heroine, wasn't born to poverty. In the beginning of the story, we get the sense that she is a genteel woman living in reduced circumstances and is making the best of it. She lives with a group of orphans -- children she has rescued and care for. And money is tight. Sarah becomes a reluctant Robin Hood, only hoping to take enough to ensure her ragtag family's survival. Sarah is a caring and warm person and has a gift for medicine. She really looks out for the people around her and, if it wasn't because they were truly desperate, I don't think Sarah would willingly resort to thieving. Later, when more of Sarah's history is revealed, she becomes an even more admirable character. I loved her resilience and her determination to survive.

Byron, Marquis of Hampton, is haunted by the horrible accident that left him with a limp and caused his fiancee to take her own life. He has been living a quiet life in the country but the king's summon has him traveling to London on a stormy night. Byron blames himself for the accident that took Clarissa's life two years ago. He has never forgiven himself for the accident and has often wished for an end to his suffering.

The author has created two leading characters who are very relatable and sympathetic. You feel that these are people who deserve a happy ending.

How they meet is also very curious: it's her first ever foray into being a highwayman and he has just escaped from his carriage, which had fallen because of the bad weather. His valet and driver are both dead and he is badly injured. Needless to say, her first attempt was a bust and she ends up empty-handed and an injured man to care for. I was a bit confused with this point: Byron had asked the coach to stop and asked for help -- the next minute, Sarah is there, exclaiming "Stand and Deliver!" -- and then, the next clear sense of narration I get is that Sarah is picking up Byron from where he fell and has no choice but to bring him home with her. Did the other coach escape? How?

I didn't mind this so much because I enjoyed what develops next: he's a lord and used to giving orders but Sarah isn't intimidated by him at all -- and the dialogue between them is very spirited and biting. It's especially great to see Byron, who seemed half-dead and disinterested with living before the accident, be brought back to life: trading barbs with Sarah and teasing her. You can sense that this is the turning point for him.

“I was not crying,” she informed him icily, “I was cutting onions.”

“Ah, I see. I must say that is a relief.” He gave her a bored look that matched his tone.

Sarah dumped her handful of peelings into a small bucket by the door. Facing him, she lowered her eyelids coyly. “Why is that? Do a maiden’s tears frighten you?”

He smirked. “No. However, they do make you look very unbecoming when your nose is all red and runny.”

“Well, luckily for me I am not trying to impress you then,” Sarah answered stiltedly and approached the bed.

Byron grinned, a wicked gleam in his blue eyes. “I find that hard to believe, since I have never met a woman who did not strive to impress me.”

“My, but you are certainly full of yourself this morning. Makes one wonder though ...”

His brows arched, betraying his skepticism. “Makes you wonder what?”

Sarah gave him a taunting smile. “Well, one who is usually so impressed with himself is often only covering for other, shall we say, inadequacies.”

He threw back his head and laughed, the hoarse baritone reverberating throughout the room. “You must have undressed me, so you should know in my case that is definitely not true.”
- p. 30

How love develops between them is another point of confusion for me: there's the standard revelation of backstory, which succeeds in bringing the two closer, but, how they finally end up in bed seems more a result of seduction rather than love. (Read pages 46 - 49). Also, Byron's revelation about his feelings for Clarissa caught me a by surprise because I was expecting him to declare that she was the love of his life, instead, he confesses to Sarah that he was marrying Clarissa for her dowry.

"Three years ago, I met Clarissa at a ball. At my father's insistence, I began courting her. She was sweet and innocent -- I guess I lost my heart to her right away. My father pressured me to propose to her because she had a sizeable dowry. ..."
- p. 41

Our hero and heroine have two obstacles in their way: Sarah's past (and her criminal activity) and Byron's lack of money (and his tenuous position in society because of his father). There's a point in this part of the story, as the author was moving towards resolving these problems that I felt as upset as Sarah did with Byron's treatment of her. I kept thinking, at the back of my head, that Byron had a plan -- but there was no clue to it in the story. Thankfully, there was a plan, which was a bit convoluted but it does succeed in solving Sarah's problem.

I think I would have enjoyed this story more if I didn't need to puzzle out some parts/scenes as I read through it. Overall, I thought this was a good read.

To find out more about Killarney Sheffield and her books, click below:
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Disclosure: I received this review copy from the author. Thank you, Killarney Sheffield, for the opportunity! Yes, this is an honest review.


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