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Connecticut, 1720: In an attempt to give his family financial security, school master Jem Bradley hires himself out as an indentured servant – and thus begins an odyssey which will take him to the small settlement of Kennet and a burgeoning friendship with enigmatic blacksmith Will Middleton. Trouble is never far away, however, and when Jem is accused of committing a bloody murder his future begins to look very bleak indeed…
It was an okay read, I guess. It didn’t work for me because I didn’t fall for its main character, and I had quibbles with plot devices that made me roll my eyes or annotate my kindle with semi-outraged “???!!!”. On the other hand, the story flowed without timeouts, always providing new turns and secondary characters to boost my attention, and even though I followed Jem’s misfortunes with dispassion, it wasn’t a bore.
Enjoying this story requires falling under Jem’s spell, which means to feel awed by his noble soul, sorry for his trials and consequently involved with his tribulations and compelled to cheer him on. I failed right from the starting point, which is Jem’s sacrifice. He gives up his life as a teacher to enslave himself as a handyman in order to pay his brother-in-law’s debts and save his sister’s family and happiness. How very Regency-romance of him! Yet, it’s because the author overdid her character’s nobility, that I eventually found Jem’s choice as stupid as it had been avoidable, and that he left me standing on the side.
I might have catched up if he had been a little more proactive. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a hard worker, and it’s not that he doesn’t stand up for himself, because he does; but he is also mostly taken care of, poor lamb. Meh. That’s purely a matter of taste though; and it doesn’t matter how much I wished for another Lola (unfair, I know) to wrestle life into submission, this story is well and truly about the vivid picture of wronged innocence finding shelter and solace in a blacksmith’s strong protective arms. Other readers will find that totally sweet, and will love the hurt/comfort feel of the romance and Will’s alpha vibes.
And indeed, I’m surprised that this story remains underrated. Granted, it doesn’t linger on the sex scenes, but the romance is sweet, the feelings take their time to grow from friendship to love, the writing is smooth, and the twists and turns are bad enough to piss you off on Jem’s behalf, but not explored enough to make you feel bad. “Solemn Contract” will not shake your world, but it can provide an easy, enjoyable read and a nice change of scenery for readers who perked up at “sweet” and “strong protective arms”.