Reviewed by May
Blurb: CAN A COMMON CAUSE
Alyce Carr has no time for the strange man in her little Cornwall village, no matter how breathtakingly handsome he is. Life in Trewyn doesn’t allow for much fun—the managers of the copper mine barely provide the miners and their families with enough food. Outsiders are suspect and flirts are unimaginable, but Simon Sharpe is as keen as his name…and Alyce can’t ignore him for long.
LEAD TO A SHARED PASSION?
As the founder of Nemesis, Unlimited, Simon Addison-Shawe is well accustomed to disguise and deceit. Yet he’s not prepared for Alyce’s dogged defense of her people and the injustices the copper mine has dealt them. With Alyce’s help he can change the fate of an entire town, and convincing her to join him is only part of the thrill. Together, they ignite a desire in each other much too powerful to deny. But at what cost?
While this book is part of the Nemesis series, it easily stands alone which really appeals to me. Zoe Archer is one of the best when it comes to historical romance. She blends passion with emotion with humor seamlessly, always has a good mix of great dialogue and action, and most importantly she gives her female characters more to do than read books and pray for a good marriage.
In so many historical romances, even intellectual females actually do little more than sit around. That bluestocking female who won’t settle for less than a love match – what is she really contributing? That is what I love about reading an Archer written historical romance. She will have a heroine like Alyce who is a bal-maiden. Who has a strong arm and who is not afraid to speak up for the injustices being done to her friends and family. I so appreciate that Zoe Archer writes the kind of female characters I want to point out to my own daughters, that make me want to stand taller and try harder.
Proud as Alyce was of her strength, she knew she wasn’t the height of femininity. Dainty women didn’t put bread on the table. Men did have their fantasies about what women were supposed to be, and that didn’t necessarily mean a woman who could wield a bucking iron.
Yet she thought she saw real admiration in Simon’s gaze, and his voice was low and earnest.
He liked that she was strong. Just as much as she did. A quick, swift pleasure coursed through her.
The sparks flew between Simon and Alyce instantly, each drawn to the strength in the other person. I really liked that they had the opportunity to have conversations and get to know each other, to really develop the budding romance here. I also love that Alyce, while a physically strong and emotionally tough woman has her moments of doubt and that she wants to attract Simon’s attention even if she isn’t quite sure how to do so without becoming something she isn’t.
Maybe she ought to have Sarah teach her how to bake a meat pasty.
The thought made her snort. A fine day it would be when she’d go begging for a man’s favor, luring him with food like she was trying to trap a badger.
Luckily, from the first moment she has his attention and just being herself is all she has to do. While Simon has some great moments in this book I couldn’t help but feeling like we didn’t get to know him as well as I would have liked. I wanted more from his perspective, more interactions perhaps with Nemesis or with his friends to really let me get to know him as something other than an agent (and founder) of Nemesis.
One thing I really enjoyed was that while incredibly handsome, in no way does Simon see himself that way or let that define him. In fact he is always working, thinking, and doing so much that I often forgot he’s also ridiculously good looking. He is hard working, tough, and not easily impressed and yet he clearly also has a sense of humor and he knows what he wants. Right now, he wants Alyce.
“What if,” Simon said, “one day, women rose up and declared, No more. We won’t wear these ridiculous garments anymore.”
Harriet looked thoughtful. “No more corsets.”
“Trousers instead of skirts.” Alyce sounded excited by the idea.
Simon grinned. “Now that’s an intriguing notion.” He tried to picture Alyce in a pair of trousers. He’d be able to better see the shape and strength of her legs as she moved. No limitations as to where she could go. And… he had to admit… it would offer a fine view of her arse.
He decided he was in favor of it, He was becoming as revolutionary as a member of the Rational Dress Society.
Harriet snorted. She must’ve seen the lascivious turn in Simon’s gaze. “Trust a man to take something that’s supposed to liberate women and turn it into something lewd.”
“How else would we know he’s a man?” Alyce asked.
“Give me a chance,” he said in a low voice. “You won’t be in any doubt about my masculinity.”
While this story has an entire mining village full of supporting characters, and cameos by other Nemesis agents as well, the focus here is the story of how Simon and Alyce fall in love while saving her townspeople from an incredibly bad situation. This is a place where people have to make do, where there is no escape and you have no right to have a voice or say in your treatment or living conditions. I really thought Archer did an incredible job of showing the harsh conditions and contrast to the lush ballrooms of London so many historicals focus on, and that she did so with dignity. You don’t feel sorry for them or pity the miners - you see the strength it takes to survive in such a place and you hope they can have a better future.
This story was really well done and I find myself wishing for the next Nemesis mission (and couple!). Archer writes with such purpose and thoughtfulness and I really appreciate the care she takes with her words. Not only does she transport us to another time and place, but she brings along characters who are unique, talented, and intelligent individuals that I never get tired of reading about.
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