Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: The Lady Who Lived Again by Thomasine Rappold

From the Back Cover:

Madeleine Sutter was once the belle of the ball at the popular resort town of Misty Lake, New York. But as the sole survivor of the community’s worst tragedy, she’s come under suspicion. Longing for the life she once enjoyed, she accepts a rare social invitation to the event of the season. Now she will be able to show everyone she’s the same woman they’d always admired—with just one hidden exception: she awoke from the accident with the ability to heal.

Doctor Jace Merrick has fled the failures and futility of city life to start anew in rural Misty Lake. A man of science, he rejects the superstitious chatter surrounding Maddie and finds himself drawn to her confidence and beauty. And when she seduces him into a sham engagement, he agrees to be her ticket back into society, if she supports his new practice—and reveals the details of her remarkable recovery. But when his patients begin to heal miraculously, Jace may have to abandon logic, accept the inexplicable—and surrender to a love beyond reason…

My Thoughts:

For three years, Maddie Sutter has been living as an outcast. Once one of the most popular and admired young ladies in town, she is now treated as a pariah, shunned by the people who were once her friends, all because she was the sole survivor of a driving accident that took the lives of three other young women, and the town has never forgiven her for it. Though she is lonely and bitter, she accepts this situation, living mostly in isolation with her elderly grandfather and the miraculous gift she's had ever since the accident: the power to heal with her touch. But her only remaining friend--who was on a European tour at the time of the accident--is coming home to get married, and she wants Maddie to share in her special occasion. While brooding over whether she wants to step back into the society that ostracized her, she stumbles into Jace Merrick, the new town doctor. Sparks fly, and Maddie revels in the fact that he knows nothing about her past and sees her for who she is rather than what she's done. When a run-in with the fiance who jilted her turns nasty, Maddie blurts out the only thing she can think of to shut him up, that she's engaged to the new town doctor and will be attending the wedding on his arm. Now she just has to convince Jace to go along with the sham until after the wedding.

Surprisingly, Jace does agree, but on one condition: Maddie has to help him set up his new practice and allow him access to her medical history. Maddie reminds him of a patient he could not save, and he wants to understand everything he can about her accident and recovery. As the two begin to work together, they find their mutual attraction hard to resist. Feeling guilty for taking advantage of a lonely young woman, Jace tries to put the brakes on, but his willpower doesn't last long against Maddie's bold sensuality. Maddie finds more than she bargained for with the young doctor, including what may be her only chance at a passionate relationship, and she discovers she likes having the opportunity to help people with her gift. As they grow closer, she wants more than anything to share her gift with Jace, but he has a grudge against "faith healers" and unorthodox practices, blaming them for the decline of his father's career and health. Maddie has to accept that the fantasy she's built around Jace is never going to be reality, but she determines to enjoy her time with him to the fullest until the wedding is over and their fake engagement is called off.

Jace doesn't believe a doctor can make a good family man, having witnessed the unhappiness in his parents' marriage. His past relationships have been limited to quick couplings amid the demands and horrors of a big city hospital emergency room, and he's never envisioned himself settling down. But he can't deny how much he enjoys having Maddie in his life. He admires her intelligence and her generous heart, and he's furious at the former town doctor for allowing people to think Maddie's survival was unnatural. His instinct to defend her against every slur is admirable, as is his desire to learn from her case so he will be able to treat the mental anguish traumatic injuries can leave behind. Jace only wants what's best for Maddie, and as the time to end their engagement draws near, he'll have to decide whether that includes remaining in Misty Lake with him. But before he gets the chance to make up his mind, the townspeople may decide for him. As the social event of the decade brings out the best and worst in people, Jace and Maddie find themselves fighting for more than just their hearts, and Maddie will have to decide if she can trust Jace with the biggest secret of all.

I am always on the lookout for something new and different in historical romance, and I went into this one with high hopes. I really wanted to love this, and I did like it, but it didn't blow me away as I'd hoped. I thought it ended up being fairly predictable, and there were some inconsistencies, not only in the plot but also in the world building and Maddie's characterization. Would anyone really call a deer hunter a "murderer" in the nineteenth century? Were there really dozens of slutty nurses running around back then for Jace to slake his lust with? And in the pivotal scene where Maddie runs into her ex-fiance and invents her fake engagement, why was Maddie at the dressmaker searching for the perfect dress to wear to the wedding when we later find out she had been in the wedding party all along and the bride had already ordered a dress for her? And this one bothered me most of all: Maddie says she's never backed down from a challenge when Jace determines there will be no more kisses between them and he's going to treat her professionally, yet for three years she's been hiding from the challenge of reclaiming her place in society. It would have been nice to see her display as much backbone with the townspeople as she did with Jace.

But overall, I thought this was an enjoyable romance with enough uniqueness about it to help it stand out from the crowd. It's well paced and plotted, and I couldn't put it down as I became absorbed in the characters' lives and in wondering if Jace and the town would overcome their prejudices and accept Maddie for who she is. I really liked the setting in a small upstate New York town and in the practice of a young doctor struggling to convince old-fashioned, superstitious people to embrace modern medicine. The tension between Maddie and Jace is sizzling, there's plenty of emotional angst, and the romance is sweet and satisfying. The Lady Who Lived Again is a promising debut, and I will be looking for more from this author.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars out of 5

*This review originally appeared on Romantic Historical Reviews

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