When it comes to romance novels, Christina Dodd is a household name. I’ve enjoyed her Facebook feed and blog for years. I also see her books everywhere and finally got around to reading one last month. I decided to start with one of her earlier novels, Priceless which was published in 1992.
The heroine is feisty little Bronwyn Edana, daughter of a respected but penniless nobleman and the seventh of eight sisters. In addition to being the ugly duckling (apparently petite, curly haired blonds were not desired in 18th century England) she also has the misfortune of being rather intelligent and outspoken. Despite all this her parents manage to have her betrothed to the hot hunky hero, Adam Kean, the Lord Rawson of Boudasea Manor.
Adam is arrogant, walks with a limp and has a questionable reputation. Unfortunately these are qualities Bronwyn must accept as this is as good a husband she can expect. Luckily for her family, Lord Rawson is also rich and accepts a marriage contract with Bronwyn sight unseen. He is sadly disappointed when they first meet as Bronwyn is awkwardly dressed in a dark haired wig and ridiculous clothing in an attempt to mimic the look of her sisters.
It isn’t long before the two strong personalities of Adam and Bronwyn clash and passionate sparks begin to fly. They develop a fervent and very physical relationship plagued by a misunderstanding that eventually sends Bronwyn to the solace of a London salon where she attempts to hide from Adam and her family and vows to never marry.
I had a vague understanding of salons from Renaissance history class but this book was the first time I was exposed to the concept in more depth. When Bronwyn first enters the salon of Madame Rachelle I just assumed it was a high class brothel. The salon in Priceless is nothing of the sort with no hanky panky going on – aside from the romantic antics of Dodd’s characters that is. Rather, Madame Rachelle describes her own salon as follows:
“…a place where men and women of the intellectual, social, and artistic elites can converse freely.”
It is of course a place where Bronwyn can shine and is also ordered to shed her wig forever. When Adam finds her there he is, of course, won over by her beauty and vows to get her back at any price. The rest of the book tells the story of their romance, peppered with a dangerous criminal element and a twist at the end.
I have to admit it. I was not thrilled by this book and had a hard time getting through it. The elements for interest were certainly there but for some reason they did not grab me. I claim some responsibility as these type of regency romances are usually hit or miss for me.
The other part that threw me was the structure of the story. It was all over the place. The first half took place at Lord Rawson’s estate and focused on both Adam and Bronwyn’s family dynamics. The second half took place in the salon in London and focused on the shady criminal conspiracy that entangles Adam, Bronwyn and a whole new batch of characters. It was almost like two books smashed together.
Priceless is from very early in Dodd’s writing career, her second or third book I think, so I’m not ready to write her work off entirely. I look forward to exploring more. I was glad to see this one end though. I’m going to have to give Priceless a Cautious Mrs. B.