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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

After the Storm by Kimberly Nee

After the Storm by Kimberly Nee
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Poinsettia

When her father’s death leaves her in need of the protection of marriage, Miranda MacDonough travels from her home in Scotland to live in England with an aunt she hardly knows. There, she will learn everything necessary to make her into an acceptable society lady. The only problem is, the one man who makes her heart beat faster and her breath difficult to catch belongs to someone else.

Hugh Montgomery, the Duke of Thorpeton, has spent his life doing exactly what was expected of him, right down to the woman he is expected to marry, one chosen for him. What he hadn’t expected was to meet a woman such as Miranda, who will turn his world upside down and leave him torn between honoring his father’s dying wish or surrendering to his desire.

A storm, in the form of a beautiful woman, is about to upset Hugh’s monotonous life.

Hugh is a man trapped in other people’s expectations. He is unhappy, but can no longer imagine living a different life. Then Miranda MacDonough waltzes into his life. The chemistry between Miranda and Hugh sparks from the first moment they meet. However, Hugh has all but promised to marry Sally Hayworth. Miranda and Hugh try to remain simply friends. My heart ached as they tried so hard to be what society expected them to be. I kept wondering how it would be possible for Hugh and Miranda to reach their happy ending. So many people would be affected by their decision, and some of those people were bound to be hurt. My sympathy with Hugh and Miranda’s dilemma kept me turning pages.

Miranda is a very likable character. Her life has been difficult. She grew up without a mother, and the death of her father has made her situation even worse. Despite these hardships, Miranda has a wonderful spirit and a great sense of humor. She is a bit rough around the edges and frequently speaks and acts before she thinks, but this makes her even more endearing. Anyone who has ever felt out of place at a new school, job, or neighborhood can immediately sympathize with Miranda’s plight. As Miranda struggled to fit in with English society, I felt as if I was standing next to her. I could see her skin flush and hear her speech lapse back into a Scottish burr when her emotions ran high. I felt as though Miranda was my friend and I desperately wanted to defend her against the snobs looking down their noses at her.

Hugh is the classic dark and brooding hero. He is suffocating and he didn’t even know it until Miranda breathed new life into him. Throughout the story, I found myself extremely frustrated with Hugh. He clearly has powerful feelings for Miranda, but is reluctant to admit it even to himself. When he and Miranda are finally alone, they act on their feelings for each other, but afterward, Hugh still seems to be set on pursuing the course his family has laid out for him. I was shocked and wanted to reach through the pages and smack him! I seriously wondered if he would ever find the courage to stand up for the love he and Miranda shared. Despite my frustrations, I knew that Hugh was a good man. That knowledge kept a spark of hope alive that he’d eventually do the right thing.

Not only did Ms. Nee create wonderful characters, but she also did an excellent job of illustrating the terrible double standard that women lived under at the time. If a man fooled around with other women before or after he was married, it was excused more often than not. However, if a woman were to engage in the same sort of behavior, she was ruined. The injustice of it all is infuriating. Still that is simply how things were at the time, and Ms. Nee worked that attitude into the speech and behavior of her characters very well.

I must also mention that two big secrets are revealed near the end of After the Storm. I was fairly certain I had a couple of the secondary characters figured out and then I was blown away by a couple of revelations. One concerned Miranda’s family and the other concerned Hugh’s circle of friends. While this gave me a fresh perspective on some secondary characters, I felt as if both revelations were a little out of place in the story. They came out of nowhere and left me with some serious, unanswered questions. Even more troubling, I couldn’t help but wonder if the bond between Hugh and Miranda was enough and if he would have had the courage to reach for his happy ending with Miranda if one of the secrets hadn’t been revealed.

Despite these misgivings, I truly enjoyed reading After the Storm. Miranda was thoroughly entertaining, and she and Hugh are perfectly suited for each other. Anyone looking for a great historical romance simply must pick up a copy of After the Storm today.