Wow, no one packs an emotional sucker punch like Monica McCarty.
I say this in all my novella reviews: "I don't like novellas." Most of the time I just end up feeling rushed. But I have had one 4-star novella read (all other novellas are lucky to snatch 3 stars) until today. And from today on, I have 2 4-star novellas.
I won't go on and on about how great a writer Monica McCarty is. It's an established fact and even when I don't like the characters, her books never fail to make an impression on me. Fantastic writing, period. The way she tells a story........she is just one hell of a storyteller. You read on and become mesmerized in the world she builds in her books. Her books are always intense and emotional. No fake conflicts for the sake of the story. She explores real human emotions and you cannot help but feel all the "I don't know what to do" and "I wish things were different".
To the characters: James is an ASS! lol This is one romance hero who knew that he loved the heroine from page 1. James and Joanna were childhood friends and they have long known that they loved each other. James being the son of the Lord and Joanna being the daughter of the marshal, their match was socially incompatible. They both knew that. James, being the arrogant ass taht he was, thought they had an "understanding". He was planning on making Joanna his leman so that he could have a political marriage to satisfy his ambition and have love by keeping Joanna on the side. He wanted to marry "well" to advance his political status and marrying Joanna was out of the question. He thought Joanna would "understand" and fully expected that Joanna would be happy to have only his love and not his name. He fully intended to provide for and keep Joanna because he knew he loved her. He just would not marry her.
Joanna is a heroine who I would by default dislike: completely devoted to the hero and waiting for a marriage proposal. But somehow I didn't mind her so much. I thought she was sweet. She became pregnant and wanted to share the news with James, thinking that James would for sure ask her to marry him right away. Well she was wrong. James, as I said, was an ASS!! So she was heartbroken and told James to f himself. They fought and said awful things to each other but both tried to make up because they were both just IN LOVE. So the entire story is about how James came around to realize that "love and marraige go together like a horse and carriage". Joanna lost the baby. James learned about the baby much later and rushed back to Joanna. He still did not change his mind though. Monica McCarty threw in Sir David who played the unfortunate suitor who was doomed to lose the girl. James was pissed off and told Sir David to stay away from Joanna. There you have it: a man who is not ready to offer himself but wants to keep the woman anyways.
What redeemed James though, was that he was RELENTLESS in his pursuits, even when he still thought marrying Joanna was out of the question. That saved him in my eyes. He knew that he wanted Joanna for the entire book. He tried different tactics and finally realized there was nothing that he wouldn't do to win Joanna.
Having read [b: The Raider|6325690|Raiders' Ransom (Raiders' Ransom, #1)|Emily Diamand|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1337782994s/6325690.jpg|4546537] first, my mental image for "The Black Douglas" is a menacing one. I imagined James to be fierce, dark, unforgiving and cruel. Much older and cynical. But in this book James acted like a 25-year-old boy (come think of it, he was 25) and in the second half he became a lover bear! I had trouble piecing my scary James Douglas together with this besotted James Douglas. Such a mismatch, my mind could not reconcile.
I have to say this is a rather endearing story. James' longing and love were vividly illustrated. He was an asshole but I think he did some really impressive groveling. I wish the epilogue and the end had more details. It ended too happily too soon.