Friday, January 20, 2017

Review: At Your Request by Jen Turano

At Your Request (Apart From the Crowd #0.5)
By: Jen Turano
Publisher: Bethany House
ASIN: B01HC1252A


Wilhelmina Radcliff once had all of New York society at her feet, her future glittering with promise. But when her father's unscrupulous business partner lost the family fortune, Wilhelmina went from social darling to wallflower, forced to seek employment as a social secretary to help keep her family afloat. When Edgar Wanamaker, once her closest friend -- and her first proposal of marriage -- appears at a ball where she is employed by the hostess, Wilhelmina is mortified. With the assistance of a few fellow wallflowers she attempts to avoid the utter humiliation of facing the one who got away. But when Edgar convinces her to give him a few moments of her time, for the sake of their once close friendship, a spark of hope rekindles in Wilhelmina's heart. Could it be that an outcast wallflower didn't miss her first, best chance at love after all?

At Your Request marks another reading first for me this year, as it is my first foray into Jen Turano's fiction. As the set up to her new Apart From the Crowd series, Wilhelmina and company's stories promise to be a clean read alternative for those who might otherwise enjoy mainstream historical romance authors such as Lisa Kleypas or Julia Quinn. I loved how Turano set up the premise of the series, as the wallflowers break social barriers and bond over their shared social ostracization. I'm also a sucker for second chance romances, and while the brief length of this novella limits reader engagement in Wilhelmina and Edgar's story, even from this brief sample it is abundantly clear that Turano is capable of telling a charming tale with warmth and humor.

Those looking for historicals with historical depth will not find that here, for At Your Request is essentially a Hallmark romantic comedy with rudimentary historical trappings for color. The dialogue lacks spark or the flavor of historical authenticity, overly formal and often clunky. That said, I believe Turano fills a unique niche within the historical fiction market, bringing humor and a contemporary sensibility to her writing that possesses great potential, leaving me curious to sample Turano's full-length fiction. The first book in the Apart From the Crowd series, Behind the Scenes, releases in April, and follows the budding romance introduced here between Wilhelmina's fellow wallflower, Permilia Griswold, and department store owner Asher Rutherford. I really enjoyed Permilia's character, and her spark-filled introduction to Asher reminded me of Mr. Selfridge -- so I am already invested in their story. At Your Request was the perfect introduction (at long last!) to Turano's lite historical romantic comedies. While not without issues, I enjoyed this sample and am curious to see how Turano's humor and heart translate to a full-length work.

About the book:

After her father lost the family fortune, Wilhelmina was cast out of the fashionable set and banished to the wallflower section. She is mortified when her friend Edgar returns to society for the first time since she rejected his proposal. Ashamed of her fall from grace, she tries to avoid him, but is there still hope for their friendship--or something more?

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