In The Name I Choose, a young woman’s life is upended when she’s sent to work in the household of a nobleman in 19th century Spain.
The story opens with a brutal murder. A young man is dead and his pregnant lover is left in the power of the murderer, Manuel Tudo, a nobleman. Sixteen years later, Amalia, a teenage farmer’s daughter, is sent to trade school to prepare her to become a maid in Tudo’s household.
Amalia never felt her mother loved her, but she’s still shocked to be sent away, and more shocked to learn that Tudo’s interest in her is predatory. Amalia falls in love with a young man she meets near Tudo’s estate, but her master’s intentions cannot be ignored. When Amalia flees for her own safety, life on the run is fraught with difficulty, especially as she finds herself pregnant. Can Amalia find safe harbor for her and her child? And what is her connection to that long-ago murder?
Amalia is an engaging character — caring, energetic, and likeable. And although the story is often dark, lighter moments work well: for example, the witty dialogue between two naval officers who help Amalia flee to Menorca.
However, while the pace isn’t slowed by too much historical detail or description, a little more research would make the story more convincing. For example, telegraphs are sent a year before Morse sent his first message in 1844 and characters enjoy fizzy drinks.
Additionally, the plot relies heavily on coincidence; for example, when Amalia meets with her real grandmother by chance. And although her life is full of incident, Amalia’s journey as a character lacks impact. Instead of growing through the challenges she faces, Amalia proves less successful as a mother to her own child than she was to her younger brother when she was 15.
Readers will find some rewards in this story. But less contrivance and greater character development would allow it to reach its full potential.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.