Wednesday, April 17, 2013

2013 TBR Challenge - The Midwife

The April theme for the 2013 TBR Challenge was New-to-You Author. I had many choices on my Kindle, given that when I first got one, I went on sort of a mini-binge scooping up romance bargains that I never actually got around to reading. Given how indiscriminate this buying binge was, I had several false starts the first week of April. For the first three books, I made myself read a chapter or two to give the stories a fair chance, but ended up rejecting them for, in order, an overly florid writing style, a hero who struck me as not just needing reform but inherently shallow and misogynistic, and having every single character feel more like a stereotype than a person.

Next I tried a more recent acquisition, The Midwife, by Carolyn Davidson. It's a 1999 release, but newish as an ebook, part of the Harlequin Treasury collection.

Although the book didn't bowl me over, I enjoyed it, in large part because it's a quiet, subtle story with an unusual setting. There's nothing splashy or over-the-top about it, with the possible exception of some secrets in the heroine's past, but they were handled deftly. The hero was a fairly prosperous farmer, not a duke or a cowboy with a past. Aside from a fistfight or two, there wasn't any violence to be found. Rather than the Wild Wild West or the Highlands (Home of the Kilted!) or Glamorous London, it was set in Minnesota in the 1890s, with hardworking Scandinavians everywhere you look. And I liked that. Not that there's anything wrong with big stories or the standard settings (says the Regency author), but it's just so nice to settle in with a book that doesn't fit the mold.

Really, I do wish there was more variety in historical romance settings. Maybe I'm an unusually omnivorous reader--I certainly meet readers online who never read outside the romance genre, never tire of Regencies and Victorians, and can never have too many dukes. And, let me stress, everyone should read what they like without any guilt, and without me or anyone else telling them they should make different choices. Most of us are super-busy people who read to relax, and if what relaxes you is a steady diet of two 19th century dukes per week, that's absolutely what you should choose. Maybe one of these days I might even write a duke myself, and I do have a wealthy, handsome viscount you might enjoy. But one of the things that gives me pleasure as a reader is getting mental vacations to a variety of times and places. In romance, I like the balance of knowing I'm getting a love story with a happy ending while seeing that played out across a variety of times, places, and character types, and I wish that variety was easier to find.

Incidentally, I've also challenged myself to read at least one finalist from each category of the 2013 Ritas. If you're interested, I blogged about Best First Book here.


  1. I've got a print copy of this buried within the depths of my Harlequin Historical stash (yes, the line has it's own "stash" in my TBR pile). I love that it takes place in Minnesota! LOL I adore westerns, but seriously, how much Colorado and Texas can a gal read?

    1. It had just enough of a Little House vibe to make me very happy, since those were the first books I ever loved, and Laura was the first character I ever identified with.

  2. I have the same problem because of paperbackswap and library sales. For a while I picked up pretty much any available romance with no discrimination. I've been struggling with the out of control TBR ever since (and have made it a policy to be much more selective, because it's easier not to bring something home than to get it out of the house.) This challenge got rid of 8 books for me, so I'm pretty happy. :-)

    You might enjoy LaVyrle Spencer and Cheryl St. John for more Americana that isn't Wild West.

    1. I've got a couple Cheryl St. John's in the TBR, and I read LaVyrle Spencer years and years ago. I should probably try her again to see if she still works for me.

      What I'd really like to see is more historicals set in the colonial and Revolutionary eras, more set east of the Mississippi, more set not in the West but on the West *Coast*, and more city stories. Colonial Boston or Philadelphia, 19th century Seattle or San Francisco, etc.

      Hmm, maybe I should write them myself...