Reading Romance: “Nine Coaches Waiting,” by Mary Stewart

BOOK Nine Coaches Waiting

This is another entry off of NPR Books’ list of 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances.

It’s been quite a while since I last covered one of these titles, for a couple of reasons. In large part, I took a long time to read this one because I’ve spent so much time writing, and it’s never a good idea to read too much when I’m flexing my own creative muscles. But it also took so long because this book, in particular, was really difficult for me to get into.

I have to admit, I chose this book off the list because the somewhat bland name of the heroine — Linda Martin — caught my eye. Those of you who know me probably know why. The other reason I chose the book is the forward is written by Sandra Brown, absolutely my favorite contemporary popular novelist. Beyond that, I didn’t know at all what to expect, and in fact had to remind myself several times that it was supposed to be a romance.

In truth, there’s not much romance to it at all. I mean, there are a couple of potential love interests (presumably so as to leave a little mystery regarding the intentions of one), but other than dear Linda declaring almost out of the blue that she’s in love with one of them, and his somewhat out of the blue acting on those feelings, mostly the book is a dark, mysterious story about a wealthy French family filled with secrets, tragedies and bad intentions, with a lot of near-miss accidents almost befalling the young heir to the family fortune and title.

That being said, once things become deadly dangerous for the young Count and our Linda — his governess — the book turns into a gripping, fast-paced tale. For the last third, I couldn’t read it fast enough. I hated interruptions and I stayed up extra late last night to get it done. And to be honest, I was pretty satisfied with the ending.

Overall, though, I thought the book had several holes in the plotting and was mostly a meandering tour through inconsequential nonsense. There’s a bit about Linda’s past that seems like it might mean something but doesn’t go anywhere, there’s some really confusing goings on concerning pills and drops, and in the first half literally almost nothing of consequence happens. In retrospect, it feels like Stewart was attempting to spring the villainy onto unsuspecting readers after weaving several lanes of misdirection, but the construction was flimsy and the red herrings weren’t deployed with enough impetus, leading to a haphazard mystery and a very lightly developed romance, which needless to say is disappointing on the whole.

So, Mary Stewart is apparently not my thing. The good news is, I still love Sandra Brown and she has a new book out I can’t wait to tackle.

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