20 February 2014

Review: The Schoolmaster's Bride by Meredith Resce

Australian Depression-era Historical

Dianne Pierceson is has recently lost her husband. It’s 1933, the middle of the Great Depression, and she has just obtained a job as teacher at Carlton Public School in rural South Australia. Her new boss is the dour and reclusive Richard Schrouder, who is none too pleased to meet Dianne, as he was expecting a male teacher.

Dianne is an idealist who chooses to believe the best about everyone, even when she hears damming gossip about her new boss. Richard is a deeply flawed character, reserved to the point of rudeness, and he is definitely hiding something. Or someone …

The title of the book is The Schoolmaster's Bride, so it’s probably not a spoiler to say Dianne and Richard marry, although it's a marriage of convenience. I did feel this section of the plot was a little contrived (yes, I’m aware this is a novel, which means the whole story is contrived by the author. But the trick is to pull the reader so much into the story that we don’t notice these contrivances).

The story then segued into something quite different from what I had been expecting, and while there was still a romantic element, it felt as though it was taking second place to the subplot, and I had serious doubts about this. You’ll have to read it to understand what I mean. Suffice to say that I think Richard is supposed to come across as gruff but misunderstood, hiding a heart of gold, but something was missing for me.

Overall, while The Schoolmaster's Bride had potential, it didn’t deliver for me. This was partly because the writing style felt old- (too many long passages of dialogue and too much describing of events, as well as other minor writing issues), but mostly because I just couldn’t connect with Richard, and couldn’t understand what Dianne saw in him.

This is a revised edition of a book first published in 2006. Thanks to Meredith Reece for providing a free ebook for review.

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