Size Doesn’t Matter (58): The Viscount Who Loved Me, The Steep & Thorny Way

Size Doesn’t Matter (58): The Viscount Who Loved Me, The Steep & Thorny WayThe Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
Series: Bridgertons #2
Published by Avon on April 28, 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book Depository

1814 promises to be another eventful season, but not, This Author believes, for Anthony Bridgerton, London's most elusive bachelor, who has shown no indication that he plans to marry. And in all truth, why should he? When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better...

--Lady Whistledown's Society Papers, April 1814

But this time the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn't just decided to marry--he's even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended's older sister, Kate Sheffield--the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate's the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams...

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes to not make the best husbands--and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate's determined to protect her sister--but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony's lips touch hers, she's suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself...

Before I actually review this book, I have to comment on the cover. What the fuck is up with the sword? There are no swords in this book. None. Zero swords. Unless you mean metaphorical swords. 😉

After The Duke and I, The Viscount Who Loved Me was a let down. The great and terrible thing about romances are that they depend entirely on the characterization. At their best, they positively enchant me. Unfortunately, no matter how good a romance novel might be, if you don’t ship the ship, it’s not going to work out.

In this case, I don’t unship the ship, but I also am completely not fussed about the ship. I really should be into this ship too, since it’s a major case of hate to love with a thorny heroine. Unfortunately, something about the characterization was just off. Anthony and Kate’s patter never really reached banter level. Since Anthony also spends much less time with his family than Daphne, I didn’t have the strong family feels of the prior book either.

The premise, even for a romance novel, is a stretch. Anthony doesn’t want to fall in love because he’s afraid he’s going to die young like his father did. Killed by a bee. View Spoiler » In case that wasn’t ridiculous to the max, there’s also a carriage crash. I just.

The fact that I was still entertained saved the book from a truly negative rating, but, man, I hope I ship the next one.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif bees arrested development

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (58): The Viscount Who Loved Me, The Steep & Thorny WayThe Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters
Published by Amulet Books on March 8, 2016
Genres: Historical, Retelling, Mystery
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: ALA
AmazonThe Book Depository

Scene: Oregon, 1923.

Dramatis personae:

Hanalee Denney, daughter of a white woman and an African American man

Hank Denney, her father—a ghost

Greta Koning, Hanalee’s mother

Clyde Koning, doctor who treated Hank Denney the night he died, now Hanalee’s stepfather

Joe Adder, teenage boy convicted of accidentally killing Hank Denney

Members of the Ku Klux Klan

Townspeople of Elston, Oregon

Question: Was Hank Denney’s death an accident…or was it murder most foul?

With The Steep & Thorny Way, I’ve read all of Cat Winters’ published novels, and I’ve been a big fan of every single one. The Steep & Thorny Way is no exception, cementing Winters even more firmly in my must-read author list. In some ways, The Steep & Thorny Way is my favorite of hers so far.

Winters tackles some seriously dark and painful subjects in The Steep & Thorny Way: racial tensions in Prohibition-era Oregon, the KKK, homosexuality, and eugenics to name the big ones. Obviously, I’m not in a position to where I can speak to how well Winters did with the biracial (Hanalee’s mama is white and her daddy was black) voice. From what I can tell, her treatment of everything seemed really good.

Hanalee’s the only non-white person in her hometown of Elston, Oregon (aside from the rumors that the Deputy might be secretly Jewish) and has been since her dad died two years before, killed by drunk driving Joe Adder. For the most part, that’s been okay; sure, some people stare but she has good friends and doesn’t spend much time around the hateful folks. With Joe’s release from prison, though, tensions in the town are increasing and Hanalee’s encountering more hate than she ever has before, while also dealing with the fact that her dad’s death may have been calculated and not Joe’s fault. Hanalee teams up with Joe to figure out what happened that night and prove his innocence.

Where this book is really brilliant is that all of that stuff is fit into a Hamlet retelling. Winters obviously has a thing for ghost stories, and Hamlet fits her wonderfully. This gender-flipped Hamlet isn’t a tight retelling, but it’s very clearly there, in Hanalee’s dad showing up as a ghost and her mother marrying her “Uncle” Clyde. Winters does an amazing job, because the Hamlet framing is a) very well done and b) actually helps to ratchet up the intensity of the book and make the ending more unpredictable, because you don’t know whether she’s going to follow that ending or not.

The only way that The Steep & Thorny Way missed for me was that I didn’t really get hit with the feels. I know that I should have, but somehow that was missing. That’s why on an emotional level, my favorite Winters book is her adult title, The Uninvited, as it’s the only one that’s really walloped my feels. However, I do think that, as a novel, The Steep & Thorny Way is stronger and more original.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif everything you ever told me was a lie lion king

5 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (58): The Viscount Who Loved Me, The Steep & Thorny Way”

  1. I’m sorry you didn’t like The Viscount Who Loved Me. It’s one of my favorite Julia Quinn novels. Romancing Mister Bridgerton is the best in the series, and maybe even the best of all her books.

    I actually liked the characterization of both Anthony and Kate. I think JQ even had an author’s note about the fact that Anthony believing he would die young like his father is a real thing. Of course that isn’t the same thing as him not wanting to love anyone because of that. And I thought the scene with the bee sting was sad. Because he has this fear because of what happened to his father. Plus, the Pall Mall match! Which is pure gold, in my opinion.

    • Christina Franke says:

      It’s not so much that I didn’t like it, as that I had mixed feelings about it. I’ve enjoyed all four Bridgerton books I’ve read so far, but I didn’t really get strong shippy feels with Kate and Anthony.

      Anthony’s fear that he’ll die before his father did because he’s accomplished less is totally realistic, and I understood and sympathized with that. I also empathize with his fear of bees because I actually share that phobia big time. If the bee scene had just been Anthony being terrified, maybe having a swoon, I would have been fine with it. However, they got engaged because he was sucking “bee venom” out of her chest area, which is not a romantic engagement to me. It was also frustrating because it was the second book in a row where they got engaged because they were compromised, not because they wanted to.

      The Pall Mall matches were the best parts, and also the parts where I liked the ship most. My favorites so far are The Duke and I and Romancing Mister Bridgerton, and I’m so excited to carry on.

  2. Joanne Levy says:

    I was okay with the bee thing, too. It’s been a while since I read this one, but I do remember feeling so sad at his panic and the demons he carries around. I’m a TOTAL sucker for tortured heroes, so maybe that’s it. The Pall Mall matches are the best–as someone who has three brothers, I adore it when an author can pull off sibling banter like that. I think the only other times I’ve seen it done as well are Nora Roberts (the Sea Swept books, I think?).
    Joanne Levy recently posted…How to Show Love to an AuthorMy Profile

  3. I’ve been sooo curious about The Steep & Thorny Way; something about it really speaks to me and intrigues me even though I tend to stay away from such painful subject matter. I actually haven’t read Hamlet but I’m glad to know that the loose retelling works and that you enjoyed the book! I haven’t read any Cat Winters, maybe this will be my first 🙂

  4. Angie says:

    Anthony and Kate are probably my least favorite pairing, and Anthony is probably my least favorite character so I can feel you on The Viscount Who Loved Me. I feel like the series only gets better from there though.

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