by Vonnie Hughes
Coming Undone is the story about two people that have been betrayed by the people that meant the most to them, both survive horrific experiences during the war, only to finally find their way out of the battle-ridden continent to come home to find themselves smack dab in the middle of a sex trafficking arena. I was unprepared when I started reading this story for a dark romance, but it became apparent quite quickly.
Colly Hetherington was run out of England after being accused of raping a woman he had known his entire life by his father. His entire family all turned from him except his Grandmama who lent him the money to purchase his commission. He spends his years in the army watching friend after friend die until finally he truly has had enough. When finally the time comes that the anger within him is replaced by despair at all the death, he receives a letter from his one and only friend asking him to come be the caretaker for their estates. Before he leaves the continent he must go say goodbye to the ‘Angel', Julianna Colebrook, who is the nurse at the Portugal hospital that he recuperated at.
Julianna's father had died three years prior leaving everything to a cousin and nothing to her. Having lived in a convent for a while she had been taught nursing and was able to find a position. While traveling with her maid after her fathers death, her maid decides to steal the mule and all her belongings, leaving her alone to be raped before reaching safety. She is employed in the hospital and tells no one of the travesty. She receives word from an aunt and uncle still in England that she can come live with them, but unfortunately she is only in month 6 of a year contract. When the year is up, she doesn't have enough money to travel, so ends up stuck at the hospital until one day when Colly shows up to say goodbye.
Julianna convinces Colly to let her travel with him, but of course there is only one room available, so he shares his status as an accused rapist with her so she would know what she was in for. He doesn't tell her that he didn't do it though. And even though she had been raped and was supposed to be weary of men, she chooses to not only travel with someone she believes to be rapist but she agrees to travel as man and wife.
Arriving at Colly's new employers, the Trewbridges', home, they are everything that is wonderful and kind. Unfortunately for Julianna this is not her last stop. At her Uncle's home where the food is bad, there is barely any staff, the aunt is no more than a ghost in the house and the uncle is slimy. The very first evening she is informed that he has found her a job at a poorhouse hospital. Where in the first week she uncovers a sex trafficking ring.
Of course, Colly and his employers check up on Julianna, and when she reports what she knows they rush in to help her. The very next day, the board of the poorhouse arrives to call the superintendent to the carpet and find out her uncle is in cahoots with him.
I hesitate to tell you much more of the story in case this seems to be something you will enjoy. I can tell you that Ms Hughes seemed to want to use every cliché known to the historical romance world and that every mystery the characters came upon was solved promptly within the next few pages.
The emotional reactions were overdone to the extreme. The weary, battle-scarred, cynical hero breaks into tears when he gets the job offer, then when she agrees to travel with him ‘floats on air'. Throughout the whole book Julianna seems to be flying through these big dramatic moments. With everything these two characters had gone through you would've expected their reactions to be calmer; when you are consistently battered by life every event just doesn't bring about large reactions.
The entire novel was written in a very dark tone, I want to almost call it gothic, but it is not being labeled as such. There are no real external factors keeping these two people apart, only the internal battle they wage. At first, he thinks he's not good enough to ask for her, then just when he is about to propose she runs off because she feels her families actions have made her unworthy.
This book was the quintessential three d's: dark, depressing and dramatic. I hate to tell anyone flat out anything, but on this one I just have to say pass.
Book can be purchased at: Purchase from Amazon
“A dark tale about two people who have been given the worst in life”
April 2010, 224 pages
Publisher: Robert Hale
In the aftermath of a vicious rape, Juliana Colebrook shuns all men apart from the injured soldiers she nurses. Orphaned and alone, she desperately wants to leave Portugal for the protection of her relatives in England. However, there is still one man who invokes her admiration: Brigade-Major Colwyn Hetherington, with his self-deprecating sense of humour and innate sense of duty. So when Colwyn is offered a dream job managing a large estate in Wiltshire, Juliana asks him to escort her back to England. But Colwyn has troubles of his own and when he is forced to reveal the nature of his woes to a stunned Juliana, everything changes. Mired in danger, who can Juliana trust? And what of Colwyn's warning that families bring only trouble?