~ My Review ~
Jewel Combs is a young pickpocket from the bowels of London. By a twist of fate, young Jewel is unceremoniously snatched from her life as a street urchin and dumped into a world she's unaccustomed. It is a world of opulence, security, and emotional duplicity. Sebastian, Earl of Moorland is both perplexed and intrigued by the scrap of a girl who crashes into his life via a deathbed pledge made by his cousin. Sebastian takes on his new charge as a challenge and as a source of simple amusement for his monotonous life. But as Jewel morphs into Lady Julia Stratham, both she and Sebastian are faced with their unbreakable attraction to one another, their own insecurities, and the duplicitous nature of some of those around them that wish to tear them apart.
Okay, I'll start off by stating that Loving Julia by Karen Robards is a classic bodice ripper set in 19th-century London, and it is in that context that you should read this novel. In other words, there are overtones of misogyny laced throughout, but that is likely attributable to the novel's timeframe. At its essence, Loving Julia is a rags to riches story akin to Pygmalion or Pretty Woman (well without the actual prostitution). Karen Robards is a very skilled writer and her expert use of imagery and dialogue makes it very easy to fall into the story.
I find that period novels are particularly difficult to write well, as one must do extensive research into the common dialects, political & economic structure, home goods, and the clothing of the period to make it seem natural. The writer must also pay careful attention to the roles that both men and women played in society during the slated timeline. Robards manages to deliver a novel that is honest to its setting, vivid, not overly plodding, and tinged with some exciting moments that keep the reader engaged.
One particular drawback to this novel is in Sebastian's character. Sebastian is mostly an Alpha male, but some of his actions are not always convincing. Sebastian's passive aggressive nature and his unfortunate tendency to sulk in his own sorrow may be traits that are more akin to a Beta than an Alpha. He does relish in his authority over Julia, but throughout the novel his power stems mostly from the circumstances of his birth. In other words, if Sebastian hadn't been born into extreme wealth it's unclear if he would still possess the fortitude to be a powerful man.
Despite this issue, Karen Robards delivers an entertaining read. I would recommend it for readers who enjoy historical romances and won't be bothered by displays of misogynistic behavior. Four enthusiastic stars up!
He was so beautiful--like one of the Lord's archangels, she had thought when she had first set eyes on him. Now she knew that if he was an angel at all, it was a very tattered and shabby one, halo severely dented by numerous falls from grace.