Title: The Legend of Shannonderry
Author: Carol Warburton
When I started reading the Whitney Award books last year, I hadn't read a romance novel in at least a dozen years. I had a lot of preconceived notions about what I'd find in these books, namely that they would all be bad-- cheesy, unconvincing, flat, etc... When I actually started reading the books, however, I found that I liked them more than I expected I would (no, I don't feel sheepish about admitting that). In fact, my favorite book of last year (Counting the Cost by Liz Adair) was classified as a romance. There was also one that was absolutely dreadful (I won't be mean and say which one, although it wouldn't be hard to figure it out if you read my reviews last year on the blog). Overall, I was quite pleased with the quality of the romances.
This year when Emily, Maralise and I decided which categories we were going to read for Segullah, I asked to read the romances. They'd been such a delightful surprise last year. However, I've struggled with them a little more this year. I found Meg's Melody to be totally problematic (with the whole OB/boyfriend, healthy preemie thing). Luck of the Draw seemed to go in one way and then went in another. And while I think many of the Whitney books err on the side of being too short to develop their plots and characters fully, The Legend of Shannonderry felt painfully long. And maybe it's a convention of the genre that the first strange man the protagonist sees will become her eventual love, it felt so painfully obvious here. There were a few places where the story tried to diverge from the forward motion of Gwyneth (a Welsh name for an Irish lass?) and D'Arcy (Darcy, really?) toward the altar, the diversions weren't diverting enough for me.
Last year the Whitneys was chockablock with male leads named Tristan. This year it's full of 19th century British settings. Since most of the authors are from the American west, the settings feel a little out of place. I think the stories might work better if the authors wrote about places they knew well rather than focusing on recreating a world gone by.