Friday, October 10, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Tangled Web by Sandra Schwab


Publication Date: July 14, 2014
Series: Allan’s Miscellany
Genre: Historical Romance

Lawrence Pelham works as a comic artist for Allan’s Miscellany. A chance meeting with a young woman dressed in mourning changes Pel’s whole life, and without his even knowing, he is thrown into a world of mystery and intrigue, where nothing is as it seems to be—especially not the woman he has given his heart to.

Her whole life Sarah Browne has been told how plain she is, how nondescript, destined to become an old maid. For years she has been her family’s dutiful nursing maid and caretaker, but now a secret inheritance and an encounter with the charming Mr. Pelham seem to offer her a chance to break out of her life of duty and drudgery—if she dares to take it. Yet how could such an interesting, witty man like Mr. Pelham be possibly interested in her boring self?

And so, Sarah soon finds herself entangled in a web of lies and deceit, which might even cost her the love of her life.



I had quite a start when I sat down to write this review.  I had read an e-book, Allan's Miscellany 1846, and found my draft post saying I should have read A Tangled Web!  After a few minutes I indeed discovered that the proper title of the book was A Tangled Web: Allan's Miscellany 1846!

But my momentary discomfort was far less than the situation in which Sarah Browne found herself.  Being an unmarried woman in her late 20's, Sarah was expected to take care of aging family members.  Then, she is taken in by a brother and his family, who demand she serve them as a tutor to their children, in the same breath as telling her what a (financial) burden she is on her family.  Polite society has a lot for which to answer.

Sarah thought herself unlovely and unloved.  So when a handsome man speaks to her outside a shop, she tells him she is the widow Mrs. Edwards.  (I wonder if she got that name from her cousin Edward.)  An as yet unmarried woman speaking to a man alone on the street just wasn't done.  But a widow was a different story.  Still, she couldn't risk him picking her up from her brother's house.

But luck was once in her favor and she had recently come into a secret inheritance from a recently deceased aunt.  She had GBP10 cash and a annuity of 200 or so, which was enough to allow her to live independently, should she choose so to do.  She keeps her home with her brother, but rents a house in which to have twice-weekly meetings with her Mr. Pelham.

Of course, she is found out.  Pel feels used (rather rightly - she did lie).  Not only did her relatives make it impossible for her to continue living with them, they made sure Pel was made to leave his employment.

I understand Sarah's past colored her abilities in her present.  Many women, even today, suffer from a lack of self-esteem.  I understand her telling Pel she was a widow, what with the morality of appearances of the day.  Her lack of esteem was wearing a little thin, but then I look at the situation through the glasses of women's rights and abilities in the 21st century.  I was glad when Sarah undertook to fight for her man and her relationship by tracking him down and by explaining herself through a series of cartoons in Allan's Miscellany.

I did not see much by way of mystery in the story, but it is a delicious romance.  It's a period 'Cinderella' story with a lifetime of trials and tribulations for the hero (or heroine) until a final happy resolution.  A Tangled Web is a light, quick, romantic read that will go well with your tea service in the afternoon.



I started writing my first novel when I was seven years old: a heart-wrenching story about the friendship between a puppy and a little cat, probably inspired by Disney's Fox & Hound. I filled page after page with pink ink from my pink, heart-dotted fountain pen, inserted illustrations and even wrote a sequel! Twenty-odd years later, telling stories is still my greatest passion, even though by now I have exchanged my pink fountain pen for a computer keyboard (black, no hearts).

In my late teens I wrote melodramatic poetry (heck, what can you expect from someone in the throes of late puberty?), before I returned once more to fantasy stories and started to think seriously about publication. Yet several rejection letters later - by then I was becoming something of an expert on rejection letters, and let me tell you, several of these people knew nothing about putting together a rejection letter and got the phrasing all wrong! - it seemed as if my wished-for writing career was over before it had ever started. As can be expected, this was not the most jolly moment of my life! But, alas, I had one last chance: in the early months of the year 2000 I switched not only genres (from fantasy to romance), but also languages (from German to English). The latter was definitely the more daunting endeavour, but I was lucky enough to find a wonderful writers' group on the net, and these awesome ladies supported my first stumbling steps in the new language. So here's three BIG cheers for you, my friends, because without you I would have never managed it!

A few years later I joined RWA and entered the first chapter of my second English novel, Straight to the Heart, in the Opening Gambit Contest of the Northeast Indiana Romance Authors. All I hoped for was that nobody would make disparaging remarks about my English. So imagine my surprise when I not only got into the final round, but actually won that contest! Now I finally had my proof that the decision to start writing in a second language had been a sound one - and for days, I was walking around on clouds! Several months later, after getting a first place in the Winning Beginnings Contest of the Valley Forge Romance Authors with the same manuscript and blubbering into the year of the poor contest coordinator when she called to tell me the good news, it finally happened: I got The Call! (Thank God, I got an e-mail first, else I would have blubbered into my poor editor's ear as well. *g*) And thus, Straight to the Heart eventually became The Lily Brand (at this point, feel free to head over to the bookshelf and drool over ... er ... admire the lovely cover pic some more!) (Be advised, though, that I won't be held responsible if you ruin your keyboard! *ggg*).

These days I live in a small town near Frankfurt on the Main, Germany, with altogether too many books (have you ever heard of books procreating? I believe mine do!) and a neurotic cat. In my "other life" I hold a PhD from Mainz University, where I teach English Literature. When not writing, preparing class, or correcting student papers, I work on my next academic book project about the famous British magazine Punch.

To find out more about my academic work, go to


(Disclosure:  I received an ecopy of "A Tangled Web" from the author and publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)

1 comment:

  1. Lies and deceit for love... and that it is a delicious romance too, now that's interesting! TBRed it :)