Date Published: February 18, 2012
Source: Personal Copy
Date Read: December 24-25, 2018
In 1879, near the small northern California town of Ridgeway, Lilly Warren is a young black woman who has recently lost her father. There is little time for mourning, though, as the responsibility of running the twenty-six acre farm now belongs to her. To make matters even more complex, her father has deeded the house and the land to her in his will with an interesting condition: that she share the land with a person she's never met, or forfeit ownership.
Ricardo Benigno is a Spanish captain of the Anna Juanita, a shipping vessel bringing spices and oils to the shores of California. Seeking out the farm of his old friend Leonard Warren, he discovers that the older man has passed away. To his surprise, Ricardo has also been willed joint ownership of Warren land, as long as he shares it with Lilly, Warren's only child.
The attraction between them is instant, and they both agree that marriage is the only acceptable way they can share the land. But can two people from such different worlds learn to love each other, or will Lilly's heart be broken if she dares to kiss the captain?
In summary -
I have read, and really enjoyed, Alexander's previous self-published novellas. But this ain't it, chief. I cringed from the moment hero meet heroine and got an ache in my jaw from holding that cringe through the rest of the book.
First, Alexander locates this new series (The Roses of Ridgeway) in northern California rather than her standard North Carolina. That change alone showed she took author choices that don't work for the story; she didn't really do her homework and gave a rather North Carolina-ish description of the farm the heroine (Lilly) just inherited from her dad. Well, half inherited; the other half is bequeathed to the son (Ricardo) of the dad's business partner. And in order for both to fulfill the terms of the dead daddy's will, the two have to marry within two weeks or so.
Lilly was a fine heroine; her father raised her to be independent and hard working, plus she has a real talent for fashion design and as a seamstress. Her mother died when she was young. She grew up on a farm that she doesn't know how to run - she only did a few chores, focusing more on her sewing talent. She has a really great BFF and an aunt that comes to California to comfort her. Lilly was a fat shaming bitch when it came to the villain, but more on that in a minute. Otherwise, I really liked Lilly and felt she got shafted with this bad story and hero.
Oh, this hero was ridiculous on such a scale I thought I was reading a parody. Alexander did absolutely no fucking research at all about Spanish people and relied heavily on Antonio Banderas GIFs. The shit that came out of the mouth of Ricardo made me roll my eyes so hard when I wasn't cringing or yelling at Lilly to run far away, give up the farm - he wasn't worth it. He insta-lusted Lilly from the moment they met and in a weird way fetishized her African-American-Portuguese ancestry as it related to her looks and how he imagined her in bed....ewwww. The dialog between hero and heroine was just awful.
Then there was the villain - he was the richest man in Ridgeway, twenty years older than Lilly, and had been harassing her into marrying him for quite awhile. I think the villain is the reason why daddy forced Lilly into marrying Ricardo, because in doing so he protected her from the villain. The villain is fat by the way - it is only mentioned EVERY DAMN TIME, MULTIPLE TIMES WHEN THE VILLAIN ENTERS A SCENE. FAT! FAT! FAT! Okay, he was also bald too. But the sheer amount of fat=evil and fat shaming by the hero and heroine was absurd.
Overall, this hot mess of a novella left me feeling really cold. I would have preferred if Lilly and her BFF were the couple and ended up in a Boston marriage situation - they were the only ones with any chemistry. I won't be reading anymore from this series, but I haven't given up on the author yet because I know she can craft a wonderful story.