Review: Written On Your Skin by Meredith Duran

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Verdict: OK, so-so, neither bad nor brilliant.

The cover is so romancy! I find this amusing. Anyway, I decided to branch out my romance reading from Tessa Dare’s excellent regency romances and came up with Meredith Duran’s spy/romance novel set in the 1880s.

I loved the female lead, Mina, who is a sharp, independent businesswoman under a disarming layer of frothy girlishness she uses to manipulate men. I found the male lead, Phin, to be a bit…meh? My total historical romance novel experience is like five books but so far every single one has involved a dark brooding male hero with a title and a dark past/emotional damage. Dudes. Lighten up.

Unlike Tessa Dare’s novels, where the whole plot is the romance (not a bad thing) Duran seems to be trying to balance the mystery/spy plot and the romantic plot equally. Unfortunately, this plays out as slightly shortchanging both. There’s a lot of Mina being kept under house arrest/imprisoned and ruminating darkly on how she hates to be caged, and the most exciting thing that happens in the plot involves a leisurely a trip to the seaside/rescue mission. Although many other characters are frequently referred to, including from Mina’s best friend Jane, Mina’s ex-lover, Mina’s evil stepfather, Mina’s mother, Phin’s old school teacher, Phin’s dark-past inducing old boss, Phin’s dark-past inducing father none of these people actually APPEAR in more than one direct scene so it all becomes quite wrapped up in the protagonists’ thoughts and remembrances and gets a bit too telling not showing.

The romance between Mina and Phin is fun and sexy, and the spy half of the plot originally seems to have so much potential- exotic locales, the secret service, escape of criminals and abduction of loved ones!- and then becomes rather vague and much less interesting. Possibly it’s because there’s never a sense of urgency timewise?

In conclusion: Mina is such a fun character! I wish we’d had more opportunities to SEE her interact with other people and come up with and execute daring plans! Let’s talk more about her beauty product business!

(Crossposted to goodreads and tumblr)

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