The Education of Mrs. Brimley - Donna MacMeans I struggled with this one.

The plot is of (a) a runaway maiden pretending to be a widow so that she can take a position at a school where (b) she finds out she is expected to teach the girls about their "wifely duties," of which she is also (unbeknownst to the headmistresses) ignorant, so of course (c) she goes to the local rakish recluse (isn't that an oxymoron in and of itself?) for "lessons" on said "wifely duties," which (d) he agrees to provide in exchange for her posing for his paintings. *deep breath*

Yes, it's completely implausible and preposterous. Thankfully, there weren't multiple drawn-out scenes of Emma's teaching the girls about "wifely duties." I don't think I could have gone any further in the book if those scenes kept popping up. Even so, what is included left me feeling squeamish and "WTF-no-way-this-happens-in-Victorian-England" incredulous.

The characters also left me kind of cold. Nicholas was a decent "devilish H" with more dimensions than the other characters, and the author does a good job of showing his strong feelings for Emma through his actions. At one point, he waits out in the rain all day to prevent her from leaving after she had mentioned running away to the Continent. The other characters felt a little cardboard to me. Emma just annoyed me half the time, mainly the times when she (a) bemoaned her plain looks in the first two chapters (Surprise! She's not plain and her devious uncle was just being a rat bastard in trying to convince her that she wouldn't ever get herself a husband.) before she finally came to terms with her looks on account of Nicholas's reassurance that she is quite beautiful, (b) veered off emotionally in all different directions, which (c) almost led to the above-mentioned spoiler TSTL moment when I was like "are you kidding me??" She was sweet in her own way the other half of the time, but then she would turn around and do something that got on my nerves. The other characters seemed pretty one-dimensional, with the villainous uncle (we could have at least had more on his motivations for his nastiness?), the wide-eyed spinster headmistresses, etc.

In terms of the story, once I wasn't as distracted by the "no-way-in-hell-would-this-happen-in-Victorian-England" line of thought, I liked the romance between Nicholas and Emma, particularly those interactions in his studio. There was delicious tension, but also mixed with a lighthearted and playful feel.

I come away from this story with an "it was okay, but not great" feeling. I'd say 2+ stars, but not enough for me to say "I liked it."

P.S. In case this stuff matters to you, there were also some glaringly misused homophones (e.g., "different then all the others" or "wile away the time") that ended up being somewhat distracting.