Thursday, June 10, 2010

Love on a Dime

The cover of Love on a Dime caught my attention at once. A woman dressed in period clothing and holding a book? Beautiful. Plus, when I read that Cara Lynn James’s novel was about a proper young lady who actually wrote the unsuitable book she’s reading, I had to give it a try.

So Thomas Nelson sent me the book to review as part of their Book Bloggers program, and I enjoyed everything to do with the writing and publishing aspects of the story. Lilly Westbrook is from a genteel family who has no idea that she writes dime novels under the name of Fannie Cole. That just isn’t the done thing in 1899. Still, she’s kept her secret for some time; the money she earns goes to a charity and she doesn’t promote her novels by doing signings.

All that changes, though, when her publisher is bought out by Jackson Grail, who broke her heart years ago by refusing to ask her father for permission to marry her. He just wasn’t wealthy enough then, but he is now – and he hopes to make the company as successful as possible with a spotlight on “Fannie Cole”. If he can find her.

That part was great. I also liked the unpleasant but realistic resolution of Lilly’s brother’s subplot – he married a woman with a secret that eventually comes between them. What I wasn’t so keen on was how quickly her family accepted her writing dime novels. It was made clear that in their circle of society, this would be a scandal. Remember that scene in Good Wives where Professor Bhaer convinces Jo not to write such lowest-common-denominator fiction?

Jack also follows Lilly around a lot – both to find out whether she’s Fannie Cole and because he’s still in love with her. But he continues to do this even after she’s engaged, and it gets to the point where her best friend has to ask him to leave her alone. It felt uncomfortably close to stalking.

Finally, this is the second inspirational romance I’ve read where the heroine has an unsuitable fiance. Except this doesn’t produce an eternal triangle. Rather than being a good person but just not right for her, the Other Man is greedy, shallow and unattractive, providing even more of a contrast to the morally upstanding and handome hero. The phrase “unequally yoked” invariably comes up, and it’s getting a bit predictable.

So the romance didn’t quite work for me, but the rest of the story did. The blackmail subplot and the literary works vs. romantic trash prejudice were fun to read about. I might have guessed that from the lovely cover which features the heroine and her novel, but not the hero.


Barbara Martin said...

In 1899 even if the man had enough money, he still might not have been suitable material for marriage. His family connections would have to be stalwart and upstanding. I agree with you on the aspect of the family being swung over to accept Lilly's writing of these dime novels. They would not have done so; in fact, they probably would have insisted that she desist immediately or face a possibility of being disinherited. Women didn't have the rights then that they do now. They were, in essence, chattels.

But a writer must amend these facts to assist in creating a storyline that works out in the end with sufficient conflicts to be resolved. As in this case.

Good review, Marion.

Marian Perera said...

Thanks, Barbara. And I agree that even if the hero became wealthy, he'd still be considered nouveau riche.

As for the dime novels, the narrative went to lengths to portray these as inspirational fiction, but I think that might have made them a tough sell compared to other such novels of that time, rather than a huge asset to the publisher.

LM Preston said...

I must admit, that cover had me and my fingers clicked quickly after I saw your post on

Marian Perera said...

It's the only romance novel cover I've ever seen that had the heroine reading a book.

Seriously... there should be more covers like this.