Evangeline

EvangelineBy Gwen Williams

Publisher: Red Sage
Publication Date: December 1, 2010
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Source: Netgalley

Paul Rumsfeld, a lonely, rich, widower, seeks Evangeline’s hand in marriage. He is her first real marital prospect, as the entire village considers her damaged goods. Rumors abound about the way Evangeline and her sister Rose Red, serviced the Black Bear who resided at their hearth during one particularly hard, bitter winter. Evangeline did no such thing, but no man pays her court. She accepts Paul’s offer to marry him, while trying to ignore the vile gossipmongers’ talk in the village that Paul’s last four wives died under bizarre-and troubling-circumstances. Is Paul a Bluebeard, or is he an innocent man? Evangeline trusts her husband implicitly, but the rumors are hard to ignore.

They marry and she travels with him to his marvelous villa on the sea. Once there, she is introduced to the household servants, including the grim and reproving Mathilda. Mathilda is a formidable opponent, and it takes all of Evangeline’s guile and resources to outmaneuver the imperious maidservant. Evangeline soon finds herself with child, and with the support of the midwife, she begins to exert her will. Out with the restricting corsets and stays! Evangeline has no desire to confine her body to the dictates of fashion. She wants her baby to be healthy and strong, and the only way to do that is to ensure her own comfort. Mathilda is horrified, but cannot bend Evangeline to her will.

At the same time, Evangeline is attempting to breach the citadel that is her husband’s broken heart. Paul honestly cannot say how it has come to pass that he is the widower of four deceased wives, each one expiring under odd and distressing circumstances. As a result, he has locked down his heart to any further intimacy. He is half-convinced that Evangeline shall also die, and it would be unbearable if he were to allow her into his heart.

Goodreads Summary

Before Walt Disney and seven poorly-dressed mine-working dwarves got their mitts on her, Snow White belonged to the Brothers Grimm, along with her sister, Rose Red.  In Grimm’s story, the sisters tend a bear one winter, a prince, forced into the form by an evil dwarf until the bear eventually kills it, ending the curse.  Snow White ends up marrying the prince, Rose Red ends up marrying his brother.  Gwen Williams took that story, saw it just a little differently (okay, more than a little) and put an erotic twist on it in Rose Red and Black Bear, An Erotic Fairy Tale; in the second half, she takes on the “Snow White” character, Evangeline.

With Rose still in limbo waiting for her lover, her sister Evangeline finds out why her boyfriend can’t get his father’s approval for their betrothal: the rumor is that she, her sister and mother had a winter-long orgy with a black bear.  The sneers from the villagers, combined with the sight of John’s sudden new fiancée make Evangeline long to leave home, so when a mysterious older man shows an obvious interest in her at the market, she doesn’t do anything to deter his interest, even when she’s told that he’s had four wives die under strange circumstances.  When Paul Rumsfeld comes courting later however, Evangeline begins having second thoughts; can she really leave Rose Red behind?  What if he had something to do with his wives’ deaths?  In the end, his affection and her desire to leave and experience more of life win out, and she marries him.

All doesn’t go well from that point on though; from the moment they enter his enormous stone house, his creepy housekeeper takes Evangeline in hand and Paul disappears.  Mathilda oversees everything, from disrobing Evangeline to arranging her on the bed for her deflowering (corset and boots on, hair spread on pillow just so).  Paul is also a completely different person, distant and determined not to interact with Evangeline, leaving her completely to Mathilda, except when he shows up in her bed for the expected sexual performances.  Evangeline is terrified; she doesn’t know if she made a mistake marrying Paul and now she’s having strange dreams of being chased down a hallway after entering a forbidden set of rooms.

The tone of this story took me all over the place and while I enjoyed the author’s inventiveness, there was a distinct lag in pace that started just past the halfway mark.  This started out reading very much like a folk/fairy tale would, with a lot of colorful descriptions and a theatrical tone.  By the time Evangeline and Paul reached his home, things turned gothic and Mathilda was completely channeling Mrs. Danvers from Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca.  She’s just that creepy if not worse, and there was a reveal at the end that made my skin crawl.  Paul started out very likeable; the more he and Evangeline connected, the less I cared for him.  I think it’s because he turned out to be sort of a beta guy, while she ended up being more of an alpha woman; it’s sexist of me, I admit it, even if I’m not proud of it.

By the time Evangeline started asserting herself with both Mathilda and Paul, this turned into a romantic suspense; it suddenly became a paranormal romance when the issues of the dead wives came back up, then when Evangeline was threatened the final time, things ended on something of a romantic suspense note again.  I think if the ending hadn’t been broadcast halfway into the story, or if the characters might have picked up on it just a tad sooner themselves, I might have been tempted to rate the book higher than I have.  From the eerie start when Evangeline entered Paul’s house, I expected the characters to be drawn in more shades of gray than they were, I think.  I wonder how much of it was because I didn’t know if I was reading an erotic fairy tale, an erotic suspense, an erotic romance or simply something indefinable.  I felt like the story wasn’t any of them or all of them and it seemed like the characters weren’t on the same wavelength either.

My Rating: C+

Barbara

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Comments

  1. Hm, interesting perspective. I reviewed this one too, and had a lot of the same issues. I think a lot of the trouble was that the book didn't really now what it wanted to be. Like you said, it starts out hokey fairy tale porn, then turns Gothic, with glimpses of paranormal. I honestly didn't know what to get from the dead wives thing, considering how it comes up *once* in a big way and then is never relevant again. But I actually liked the Gothic atmopshere a little more than any of the other ones. I think it could have been a lot better if she'd stuck with that, or if, as you said, her characters weren't so damn dense and/or obvious.Re: Evangeline being an alpha woman, it's funny how people get different perspectives on thigs 🙂 I actually liked Paul more as he and Evangeline connected, because I saw them on more of the same level of assertiveness. I thought any of Evangeline's "charge-taking" was more lip service than anything else, and while Paul ended up being totally complicit, Evangeline wasn't all that demanding either.And the sex! XD So lame.

  2. From Red Sage I expect hotter sex than this, definitely. Really, if you're going to be all arranged on the bed, I expect a little kink. Maybe she ought to have been tied down or something. ;)I think I thought Paul got wimpier the more he fell in love with Evangeline and while in the beginning of the book his past seemed to trouble him so much, all of a sudden it was a non-issue because he was sad. I have a soft spot for the angry, cold lover (I love Anne Stuart's bad heroes) and he just…bleh. It didn't help that he seemed to have a brain injury and didn't suspect anything was wrong with the psycho housemaid.You're probably closer to the truth than I am about Evangeline. She went along with Paul a lot, I suppose because she wanted the illusion. If she wanted to get rid of Mrs. Freakazoid she could have found a way but she found herself in the dumbest situations with her.I wasn't interested enough after this to pick up Snow White and Brown Bear's book even with the promise of bear sex. 😀

  3. Right? I was shocked when I flipped to the end and found out they were an erotica publisher. It's like, really, and you guys published this? It's so vanilla!Hm, I'm probably just tired of the posturing I-Tell-My-Woman-Where-To-Go-And-What-To-Do type, so I was cool with Paul and Evangeline getting to the same level of dependence on each other. Not to mention idiocy. That's true though. But you know romance books, love heals all.I just laughed because the ridiculously long summary was all like "Evangeline asserts her indepence by shunning traditional clothes" and is all guile and rebellion and shit, and then the only reason she does that is because the midwife gives her permission and is standing right next to her practically holding her hand when she "asserts herself". It's like, really, if she weren't such a scared child, like you said, the creepy maid would have been a nonissue.Me either. I don't think I'll be reading anything else of Gwen's. The lack of bear sex is just a plus, lol.

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