Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage
by Kiernan Kramer
(St. Martin’s, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0312-37403-7
*
Sometimes you can tell when you get done with the first chapter that this is not a book you will enjoy. At times, the author surprises you and you actually end up with an acceptable book. But Cloudy With a Chance of Marriage lost me in the first chapter and never caught my interest. There were issues …let me count the ways.

One. It took me several chapters to figure out that this is a story set in London in the Regency era. It reads like a contemporary tale…the heroine, Jilly Jones, owns and operates a bookstore with a mousy clerk named Otis. She lives across the road from retired sea captain, Stephen Arrow, who holds drunken parties and disturbs the neighborhood all the time. If it wasn’t for threats to call the “constable” and someone wearing a “tricorne hat,” I would never have known the time period of the setting.

Second, we find out that our lovely heroine is a runaway wife. Apparently she was forced into marrying a distant relation who is mean and nasty, including in the bedroom due to his own inadequacies, and he is spending her father’s money like it was water. So she took money she had earned through the sale of a property and from the sale of some pricier items from her house and ran to London to open her own bookstore. Her husband Hector Broadmoor is a scoundrel. I have never been comfortable with stories where the hero or the heroine is married and falls in love with another. It is just one of those things that I struggle with. And it doesn’t matter that when we finally meet Hector, he is a bad guy and a sniveling cheat. They are still married. In the end, the resolution of their marriage was too convenient and left me with even less satisfaction.

Third, Jilly is supposed to be lying low but she starts to fall for Stephen, attends a ball where she is in the limelight and is determined to help her neighborhood by holding a fair to raise money. See, they live in quiet neighborhood that many feel is “unlucky” and it seems everyone who moves onto the street starts having issues. But Jilly decides to save the day. She befriends everyone and soon we have a cast of secondary characters that parallel the type of small town characters from a Debbie Macomber or Sherryl Woods contemporary. We have young people seeking to find love, we have a family devastated by financial loss, we have an old biddy who tries to make everyone’s life miserable and of course, we have the Captain. And Jilly is so lovable that soon she has everyone won over and doing her bidding.

Four, five six and seven can be summed up by poor plotting, too contemporary a feel for a historical novel, a lack of activity beyond the sparring of the characters and an unbelievable ending that just seemed to tie up too nicely for anyone expecting a little cleverness in their stories. The street fair is a convoluted storyline and when the Prince Regent is thrown in to show that they really are on the fringe of the ton, the author lost me.

Stephan is a bold man, a rake and yet, he doesn’t seem to have any means of earning money. He starts off wanting to sell his house, which he got through some wild story about pirates and then he just keeps hanging around. He is friends with a lot of titled noblemen, some of whom have been the stars of other Kramer novels. At first, I got the impression that all these men were part of his crew due to the fact they were drinking and carousing for weeks. Then it becomes evident that no, in fact, these men are all part of the nobility.

Jilly goes from a strong independent woman who is almost prudish, to a bit of a frivolous light skirt with the Captain, to a woman with such low self-esteem that she meekly goes with Hector without a real fight. I could never relate to her just as I couldn’t relate to her character in the time period. While sometimes a heroine has to be unconventional for the times, Jilly seemed totally out of the element of the historical period.

Sometimes a reviewer comes across a book that just does not work on all levels. Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage was one of those books for me.

--Shirley Lyons


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