Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Woman of Iron by Sheila Holland


Hooray, I actually remember who inspired me to read this vintage bodice-ripper. Thanks to Naksed for her glorious review of WOMAN OF IRON because without it, I'm not sure this book would have come to my attention, even though Sheila Holland is apparently one of the pennames of THE Charlotte Lamb, of Harlequin fame. IKR. Her Harlequins are often pretty spicy for Harlequins, but the bodice-rippers she wrote for other publishers apparently like to get down and dirty.

WOMAN OF IRON is such an intense read. Any book that starts out with the hero whipping the heroine is automatically suspect (I see you, THIS OTHER EDEN). It's kind of a cross between THIS OTHER EDEN, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, and LEMONADE, although it's not really as "romantic" as any of those books, as most of this love-hate relationship is spent with the dial resting firmly on "hate" and the hero and heroine don't even sleep together until twenty pages from the end (although the hero sleeps with plenty of other women, and the heroine has, like, two other dudes who want to get with her).

The plot is a little to complex to summarize, but basically the heroine is the illegitimate child of an ironworks owner and is raised by her uncle when he dies. The uncle's wife HATES her and everything she represents because when the dad died, uncle stepped in to be the mistress of wifey, and real wifey resents that on a deeply personal level, so she just spends a ton of time whipping the heroine. (Don't worry, she later dies of small pox lmao.) Then the hero whips the heroine because she won't call him sir and apparently defiance is his love language because the fact that she won't give in just makes him smile like a fool, even as he plans to break her. What a psycho.

I would love to get into the litany of misdeeds that happen in this book but I want to at least try to cross-post this book to Amazon. I will say that it has a lot of triggers, and there is violent assault and rape, and also small pox, and unpleasant deaths, and also murders. Midsomer would never. Part of me is in awe at what Charlotte Lamb was capable of under this imprint, and part of me is like, "Okay, but maybe also at least try to make some romance?" I wish there had been just a little more obsession of the passionate kind and some more scenes between the H and h beyond the one dub-con scene they had. The ending was SO abrupt also and didn't really provide any closure.

Brilliant characterization and a true bodice-ripper but not really a romance.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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