Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Review: 'Masquerade' by Joanna Taylor

Displaying 9780349407289 (1).jpgRomance books can be tricky reads. On the one hand the reader wants there to be happiness and love, but on the other hand there has to be a plot that might create tension and suspense. Masquerade manages to strike the balance between the two well.
Many thanks to Piatkus and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of the book, and including me in the blog tour, in exchange for a fair review.

Pub. Date: 06/08/2015
Publisher: Piatkus

1786: Regency London. Everyone is hiding something. But someone is hiding everything.
Lizzy Ward never meant to end up working the streets of Piccadilly. So when a mysterious noble pursues her, it seems her luck is changing. But though Lord Hays offers to grow Lizzy's fortunes, his price is unexpected. She must masquerade in the sumptuous gowns and social mask of a true lady. With the stakes so high, love is out of the question. But as Lizzy navigates the fashion and faux-pas of the London elite, she finds her tough facade failing her. Lord Hayes wants to show her that nobility is more than skin deep. . . and as the connection between them grows, it's no longer certain who's wearing the mask. As the street-girl and the lord collide. Regency London is poised for scandal . . .
A love story of surpassing power and imagination, this is a stunning new British voice in Historical romance for fans of Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Stephanie Laurens and Georgette Heyer.
As I said above, a romance book walks a thin line between being good and being boring. The core story of romance books doesn't really vary, two people always have to fall in love in order to really get the book's plot going, much in the way that in detective novels someone always has to die in order to start off the book. Where the skill of a romance, or detective, book lies is in taking a well-known starting point and adding something new to it. Much has been tried, from vampires to zombies, but not all of these are successful in creating captivating stories. What makes Masquerade enjoyable is the infusion of historical fiction into the plot. Taylor sets her lovestory in the London of the late 1700s during the Regency period. There is a genuine effort on Taylor's side to make Masquerade fit into this time period, both through her descriptions and through the language that her characters use. Too often romance books are set up as period dramas, only for them to fall flat on any effort of continuing so. Although maybe Masquerade isn't factual about Regency London it gives a fairly accurate impression and that makes it so much more interesting to read.

Displaying Masquerade poster.jpg
Masquerade isn't a complicated read. The fun of the novel is very much down to the characters and Taylor's descriptions of Regency London, while the plot continues relatively as expected. There are some minor twists and turns here and there which aren't as shocking as they might have been, but they are entertaining. There is a very solid connection between this novel and the film Pretty Woman which will be obvious to everyone who has seen the film. At times this is enjoyable, but there are also moments where it would have been better had Taylor deviated from the film and the known storyline a little bit. Taylor's willingness however to discuss her main character's career and its consequences openly throughout the novel really made a difference.

For me one of the highlights of the book was Taylor's characterisation. Both Lizzy and Lord Hays feel like solid characters who are maybe recognizable but still have their own independent traits that make them interesting. Taylor makes it easy for the reader to root for them and feel for them, which is key in a romance novel. Lizzy is an interesting main character whose loyalty lies mainly with herself. As her backstory is revealed to the reader a lot of sympathy is gained and her choices become understandable and almost praiseworthy. The same goes for Lord Hays who, though starting off like the stereotypical hunk, is given more layers by Taylor than was expected. What really lifted the novel's characterisation, however, was Taylor's willingness to go a bit into the class-issue she is using as the vehicle for her romance. Initially I was worried that this would be completely swept to the side in order to let romance happen, but through Lizzy's eyes Taylor makes some astute observations and gives some insight into how society in all its different layers entraps itself. Lizzy's search for independence was also well-written and hence understandable although I would've loved to see more about this.

I give this book...

3 Universes!

I read Masquerade quickly and there is not a lot about it that challenges the reader. However, it is very enjoyable and the characters are well-formed. Taylor spins a fun story where everyone seems to be hiding something but everyone also has to put down the mask at some point. I'd recommend this to fans of romance books and light historical fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Masquerade proms are really gaining a ton of popularity in recent years, and each year more and more schools all over the country are choosing a masquerade prom theme for their junior and senior proms. In these proms, the guests are required to bring in and wear a masquerade mask for at least part of the time.