Banished Love is a historical romance that I was expecting to be another one of those historical romances where, despite every imposition of society, everyone bangs everyone anyway, reputation be damned! I was actually pleasantly surprised by this book, for reasons I will get into later.
The story revolves around Clarissa Sullivan (wow look at me, I actually remembered a character’s full name for once), a young woman in 1900 Boston, who lives to frustrate her horrible, society conforming step-mother with the aid of her two brothers, and to attend suffragette meetings.
The book does start with a popular trope—clumsy girl! Haha, girls are so silly, running into things, tripping all the time, isn’t it cute hahahah?
I do have to ask, why are the heroes never clumsy? Where are the clumsy men? All of the love interests in romance novels are portrayed as men who are in control at all times. They exude confidence. They never make mistakes. Their clothes are always flawless and they have great business sense. But the heroines can barely walk. Women, am I right?
So the first few pages were not very endearing because of the clumsy trope, but I do have to give credit for Banished Love’s love-interest, Gabriel, who is kind of an awkward guy. I mean really, his clothes don’t fit, he doesn’t communicate well, and while he’s a hard-worker, he’s not rich. Despite his talent in wood-working, the guy doesn’t even brag about his ability. He was such a foil to the typical “alpha male” douchebag that are everywhere in romance novels that I couldn’t help but like him.
I liked almost everyone in this book , character-wise. Clarissa’s family are utterly likable and actually feel like they are characters of their own, rather than the flat cut-outs that most side characters in romances tend to be.
Unfortunately, Clarissa’s character does fall into that trap of characters that feel too good to be true. Look, the girl works as an educator of poor immigrant children because she wants to, not because she has to, is completely understanding to all of her friends, and basically DOES NO WRONG.
What a saint. It drives me up the wall about these characters who, like me, are in their twenties but are cool, calm, collected. Listen, I’m 22 and sometimes I don’t want to brush my teeth at night and my idea of cooking is throwing a potato in the oven and poking at it as if that will tell me if it is finished cooking. All these women have jobs, volunteer, cook, navigate life with competence, and don’t roll up in blankets and shove themselves into the corner of a room because they’ve lost control of their lives.
How am I supposed to relate to a character like that? Who are these people. Where is the main character who mostly has a relationship with a fresh-out-of-the-oven loaf of garlic bread? (Hint, it’s Bridget Jones. She is all of us)
I don’t think the character has a single failing? The worst thing that happened with her is that she got left at the altar. Which just makes her the victim anyway. I guess we’re supposed to wish she spoke up more often but she already is far braver than the average women in the book, so wanting her to speak up more is unrealistic.
The other character I have a problem with is Clarissa’s step-mother. I don’t like or understand characters that are out to ruin others’ happiness with no discernible motive other than that they hate fun. Mrs. Smythe is a horrible, petty woman and there is absolutely no reason given for it. She’s so horrible you wonder why Clarissa’s father, who is always portrayed as loving and understanding, would even consider marrying the woman when she obviously hates his children so much.
It makes zero sense that Mrs. Smythe is so petty when she married down in social status to Clarissa’s father? Why would she even marry him?
Having a character just be awful to create conflict in a story isn’t too compelling to me. I wish there had been a better portrayal of why Mrs. Smythe was so gross all of the time. Because she came off as a complete caricature of the evil step-mother.
Anyway, despite these small complaints I really liked Banished Love. It was very SWEET, not vulgar at all. So if you’re after the hanky-panky, you won’t find it here. But the story is sugar sweet in that way that you don’t want to admit you like, but you totally like.
It’d make a great movie, with all those period clothes and the upper-class daughter falling into the world of women’s rights and a dusty wood-worker with a heart of gold. Wow this book is kind of disgusting. I love it.
I give it a 6’ 4’’ on the scale of “how tall can the love-interest in a book be, before it gets weird” scale.