Jo Beverley definitely had noble intentions when she created Anne and Race, the hero and heroine of Hazard. The heroine isn’t feisty, and “rake” isn’t a word that even remotely begins to describe the hero. Yep, they’re different from the usual Regency fare, all right. Problem is, they’re boring.
Introduced in previous books by Ms. Beverley, Lady Anne Peckworth is the not-too-disappointed unsuccessful candidate for the hand of the Earl of Wyvern (The Dragon’s Bride). Hardly broken-hearted, because marriage isn’t a goal on which she is firmly set, Anne lives an unusually quiet – especially for the daughter of a Duke – and contented life in the country. And, though she is pitied by others for her club foot, Anne doesn’t pity herself. She is, she believes, quite self-sufficient.
Or so it seems. Her attitude changes when she learns that her parents will oppose the marriage her younger sister desperately wants until after Anne marries. Almost simultaneously, she also comes to realize that a future as the spinster sister of her shallow brother isn’t quite the rosy picture she imagined. With those factors to consider, Anne decides that marriage is, in fact, her best option.
Race de Vere is concerned about Anne. As friend and secretary to the Earl of Wyvern, he has taken it upon himself to make certain that Anne is well and contented after being “jilted” by the Earl. To that end, he has attached himself to Uffham, Anne’s younger brother, as a sort of unhappy combination of friend and hanger-on to the loutish young man.
Of course, from the beginning sparks fly between Race and Anne. Race and Uffham arrive in the country when Anne’s elder sister is about to give birth. Thanks to a quantity of alcohol and a few rounds of the dice game Hazard on that eventful evening, the restraints between them crumble, and Race and Anne are quickly brought to recognize their attraction to each other. With a few tipsy kisses, Race awakens Anne to the pleasures of physical love and to the realization that her own insecurity has led her to be less than encouraging to potential suitors. Clearly, with her newfound confidence, now is the time to tackle London in the hopes of finding a husband.
Race, of course, isn’t in the running. His social position is far below Anne’s and, equally important, he simply doesn’t feel that he is worthy. Anne, too, doesn’t wish to make a marriage that would effectively cut her off from those she loves. So, with any thoughts of Race set wistfully aside, it’s off to London. And, while Anne does indeed succeed in conquering Society this time around, she soon realizes that none of her suitors meet her exacting requirements in a husband – especially since none of them are Race.
Let me say right away that I really liked Anne, a woman of real substance and intelligence. But, as a heroine of escapist fiction, she also seemed a bit flat to me. Anne is much like one of those people in whom you find many qualities to admire, but 30 minutes into lunch, you’re bored senseless.
Ms. Beverley goes to such pains to describe Race as slight, slender, fine-boned, and fair that I think the reader will be forgiven if she is less than impressed. And while we’re told that he is a ladies man and one of experience, it simply didn’t ring true for me. I do think, however, that Race is a very, very nice guy. And I’m not proud of this, but I have to admit that while I think it’s great to marry a nice-but-a-bit-boring guy, I’d really prefer not to have to read about one.
And therein lies my quandary. There is nothing wrong with this book. It’s well-written, well-structured, and, well, boring. But, once again, I do want to acknowledge that Jo Beverley is trying to do something different here. And, while it didn’t work that well for me, her efforts are to be commended.