Friday, August 28, 2015

Review: Silk and Scars by Cassandra Dean


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This story surprised me -- for one, I didn't know it had been released until I read about it at Buried Under Romance, then, it surprised me by how charming and concise it is.

The first 11% of the novella is epistolary -- and the letters between Gwendolyn and Edward start off by accident, and, despite Gwendolyn's protestations, the letters between the legal scribe and the duke grow with an intimate progression that, I think, surprises both of them. (Yes, I used the word "surprise" three times already.) It's breathtaking and beautiful to imagine being able to fall in love sight unseen -- and what is revealed on paper isn't the outward beauty of Gwendolyn, but her soul -- and Edward's.

Edward is a very curious hero -- he's a duke, but he isn't worldly or experienced -- because of the injuries he sustained when he was 12, he has lived a reclusive life in Sowrithil, communicating mainly to his solicitors in London. I kinda like that Cassandra Dean didn't delve too much into Edward's past or the circumstances of his accident -- all we know is that it was the same accident that claimed both his parents. Instead, the author allows us to focus on Edward as he is now -- without the tragic backstory to color our judgment of him or to define him. And Edward, scars and all, is a really, really great guy. He may not have Lord Byron's good looks, but he has his moors where he broods and contemplates the crags and rocks -- and his letters are poetic. Beyond his Gothic appeal (he loves to read Gothic novels), he also seems to be a fair-minded man who is exercising diligence and thoughtfulness in how he is managing his estates. If his letters to his solicitors are any indication, he is a man who is taking the role and responsibility of the Duke of Sowrith very seriously.

I think what is highlighted in this novella is that the falling in love part is easy -- it's how you get along with each other that is the greater challenge. By their first meeting, Edward was already in love with Gwendolyn, and, even though Gwendolyn never says it, how she reveals her feelings to Edward in the letters, shows a great degree of trust already. It's interesting that Gwendolyn and Edward communicate so well on paper, but not in person -- and it leads to some small misunderstandings and hurt feelings -- but the spark is there, and we feel the same excitement as Gwendolyn does when she meets Edward for the first time.

...He had handled everything badly from the moment she'd arrived at Sowrithil. He'd wanted to impress her, to have her smile and greet him warmly, and for them to find the easy conversation they'd found in their letters.

Against his misgivings -- Bloody hell. Throat working, he closed his eye. Speak it true, man. Against his downright terror, he'd concocted a plan to bring her to Sowrithil. In his head, it had been a brilliant idea. In his head, he'd been verbose and suave, able to speak to her with something approaching normalcy. But that had been in his head.
- loc 567

In the first two instalments of the series, "Silk" referred to the hero, but, in Silk and Scars, it's actually Gwendolyn who is involved in the law. Cassandra Dean also uses her story to show that the study of law was off-limits to women in the 19th century, and Gwendolyn's position in the law office was uncertain.

She was beyond fortunate to obtain this employment, which was both well-paying and in the industry she loved. She had not thought to be able to work in law; had thought the limitations of her gender would again keep her from something she loved. However, somehow she'd stumbled into this work and she would not lose it over this.
- loc 363

Silk and Scars is such a great example of an epistolary done well -- I loved reading the letters between our hero and heroine. I loved our hero and heroine. I loved reading this story. This is Book 3 in Cassandra Dean's Silk series. To find out more about Cassandra Dean and her books, click below:
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