Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review - A Lady of High Regard

Original Title: A Lady of High Regard
Series: Ladies of Liberty, #1
Author: Tracie Peterson
Published: July 1st, 2007

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

This is the kind of book the three-star GoodReads rating is reserved for. It’s not a complete mess, but it’s not that good either. Did I like it? Yes, and no. It’s fluffy and romantic, but I’m honestly not impressed. I have both good and bad things to say about it, and I hope I can explain myself correctly. It’s my first book by Tracie Peterson, and I will definitely give her one more chance, reading this trilogy’s second instalment.

Overall, I liked Mia Stanley, even with all her faults and somehow lack of depth, although I felt she had a huge potential, and in the end, it wasn’t completely utilized by the author. On the one hand, it was a breath of fresh air to read an historical novel about a woman who cares about others and doesn’t focus her life on getting married, or falling in love. Mia is a smart woman –albeit some bad decisions she makes–, and it’s good to read about someone who makes mistakes, who has every good intention in the world, but uses the wrong method, in her hurry to help. We have all been there at one point in our lives. This woman wants to make a difference in a time in which women didn’t have many options, besides getting married as their highest achievement. Mia knows that not everyone has the advantages she has, and I liked her resilience and stubbornness, her attitude of not giving up in the face of suffering.

I liked both of Mia’s parents, too, Lyman and Aldora Stanley, especially because of the change they went through. At first, I thought they would only be these couple of cardboard characters whose only part in the story would be Mia’s reason to rebel, only caring for their social standing, and their daughter’s matrimonial prospects, especially with certain things they say. Like when Mia, who doesn’t want to go to England with them (and towards an arranged marriage), suggests she could stay either alone at home, or as a guest with any of her friends, and her mother refuses, saying:

We would face social condemnation, as you well know.

*face-palm* My only thought when she said it was “why does it have to be SO OBVIOUS?”. Unless this is your very first historical fiction book (or either you’ve been living under a rock), I don’t think this needs clarification. We know it already. And also, when they made Mia stop writing for the magazine, she resigns, and says it no less than three times, with full explanation. Ok, we get it, let’s keep it moving! But, anyway, I liked how they came back from their trip changed, and recognized that times were evolving and that Mia should speak her mind and express herself. They didn’t want to repeat their mistakes and decided to soft the strict rules in the world they raised their daughters in. And that added bonus points to the story.

I also liked how Mia gets to know the seamen’s wives, and how the contrast is presented, as it’s vivid and very noticeable in the two worlds she moves through. It’s like she turns into someone mid-way, having, on one side, the empty talk she hears in her friends’ houses, about parties and weddings, dresses, and their desire to “help” in the sewing circle with the scraps of fabric they have left, and on the other side, the life full of pain and hardships the women in the docks face every day, having to raise children with no food or money, with husbands who aren’t there (either dead or at sea), and an abusive man who takes advantage of them in every possible way. Don’t tell me this is not a real issue even nowadays. Just like it happens in this book, the fact that the people who could help don’t, or choose to look the other way, doesn’t make their reality disappear, and I liked that Mia wasn’t like that. She never gave up in her decision to make a change happen for these people, and her attitude was not only that of a Christian person, but also, a feminist.

Although she grows and her naivety fades as the story progresses and she faces reality, I must say, sometimes it was too much, and I wanted to slap her in the face. Like when she goes to see Jasper Barrill about the women and their debts, and says:

I am a fairly educated woman. I should be able to approach this Barrill man and at least reason with him to put aside his activities.

This goes beyond naivety. I call stuff like this plain stupid. I mean, I get that she grew up in a very different life from the one at the docks, with people who loved her since she was born, and everything. But you can’t be so stupid as to face a man who has no qualms about taking children from their mothers, taking money from people who don’t have it, and raping women, and think you can reason with him. She may as well say “I’ve heard you are raping women and I want you to stop.”. And that would have been the worst, hadn’t she added:

Oh, and one more thing: I wonder if you might tell me who you work for.

Oh, my God! You have to be very stupid to think that he will answer that after you threatened him with exposure. Not that he would say it without it, anyway. But you get my point.

Also, when she goes to the docks to visit one of the women she’s been secretly interviewing at night, and is assaulted by those men, one of them has a very bad alcohol smell all over him, and she thinks:

It wasn’t even noon. What kind of man started drinking before noon?

Mia, you do know you could be raped right here, don’t you? Because I can’t believe how you are thinking that, of all things.

As for Garrett Wilson, I liked him, but not so much as to think it was ok from him to follow her wherever she went. I get that she was often reckless and he wanted to keep her safe, but still, following her everywhere? I don’t think I’ve ever liked a character who does this, and it’s not different with this book. However, I liked him in the other aspects of his life, in his role as a son and a brother to his stepsisters, and how even though Mercy wasn’t his mother, he still respected her as his father’s wife. At first, I thought that his father’s illness and bed rest would lead nowhere, but it’s his death what takes Garrett from Mia’s side, and hence, Jasper Barrill can kidnap her. The only thing that bothered me was that, not a second after the man dies in his bed, Mercy welcomes Garrett into her home anytime, and he has no better idea than saying:

Society might question the living arrangements with us so close in age.

Uh, guys? I don’t want to interrupt, but the man’s body is still there. Can you discuss this some other time? It really has to be now?

Anyway, let’s move one.

The romance was sweet, but not nearly enough, and very common, not memorable at all. I’ve read it a thousand times, and in general, I thought it could have been so much better if the book had been longer. They only kiss once and in the very last line of the book, and that NEVER works for me. I wanted to read about that kiss, and even more, I wanted to read their wedding! It was disappointing. I often felt everything was happening way too soon, before giving me time to savour it and start rooting for Garrett and Mia. Plus, it got really obvious at some point, with too much telling when it should have been showing. Like with this:

After his evening at the theater with Mia, he had come to realize something that he’d suspected for months: He was falling in love with his best friend. The thought had startled him at first, for he’d known Mia all of her life and he’d never thought of her in this way. But now she was all he could think about.

Do you really need to tell me that as literally? Can’t you just show it to me? It’s made so obvious, that is not enjoyable!

Or this:

Though he longed to go to her and declare his love, he knew for now he needed simply to better understand it himself.

Damnit, too soon! And out of nowhere.

And also, some moments were just laughable, like when Mia simply takes a sit, and this happens:

For some reason she could nearly feel his arms close around her again as she eased back into the chair. The very idea warmed her cheeks.

Really? A chair makes you feel this way? Ok, it’s your call.


He had fallen in love with her, and he had to find a way to cause her to fall in love with him as well.

Why on Earth are you TELLING me this? Showing could do wonders to convince me of their love, but the opportunities to do that went down the drain. I was left wanting more scenes together, more actions and beautiful moments, beyond the almost-proposal situations they have towards the end, tainted by Mia’s misunderstanding and jealousy, when she thinks Garrett is engaged to this Eulalee woman, who, by the way, claims she will remarry, but nobody mentions to who, or anything for that matter (not that it is important, but still).

A thing that really bothered me and confused me was when Mia asked his father for the sixty dollars to pay Jasper Barrill, to settle Mrs. Smith debt, and he decided, along with Garrett, to set a trap and get the man arrested for his past crimes. And when he went to get the whole thing ready, he asked Mia to stay home for her safety. And I was like, WHAT? This woman was the one who started everything, who brought awareness about the man’s crimes and the seamen’s wives’ living conditions, and the whole thing was going to conclude without her? She wasn’t even going to be there to see the man brought to justice? Or worse, we the readers don’t get to see how everything is resolved? That was definitely odd, and I didn’t understand why the author chose to do it that way, keeping us away from the action, while the men solved everything.

The ending in general felt cut short. Abrupt. But, in a positive note, at least we can see how the characters evolve as the story progresses. Mia starts as a society lady and a matchmaker, lively, beautiful, and active, but innocent, nonetheless, and by the end, she has changed, having a better understanding of life, and being less naïve, aware of the world around her beyond her family, her home, and her lifestyle. And Garrett loves her and wants to marry her, just for herself. He likes her just the way she is, with all her faults, her stubbornness, and determination, but also for her sweetness, and bravery.

So, long story short, I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to, but I will read the other books in the series. They are just what I need right now, with my weary brain and my need of some literary candy to relax. It’s not the biggest masterpiece ever, but neither a trashy romance novel, and I will for sure give the author another chance. Overall, I liked her writing style, and I hope her books get better in the future.


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