A Fine Passion
A Fine Passion features an overblown writing style and a lack of internal conflict. Unfortunately, the external conflict didn’t compensate, and while the hero and heroine weren’t poorly drawn, neither were deep characters.
Seven years ago, Lady Clarice Altwood was banished to the country by her disapproving father after she refused to choose a husband from among her suitors. Now 29, she lives with her cousin James, a clergyman, and prefers rusticating to the shallow London society in which she was raised, and away from a family that would so carelessly discard her. In the absence of the local baron, Jack Warnefleet, who is away at war, Clarice has become the unofficial leader of the community, respected for her intelligence, tact, and objectivity. After coming across an overturned carriage in the middle of nowhere, she is trying to rescue the badly injured driver when Jack Warnefleet, the absent lord, rides up and attempts to take over.
Jack is recently returned from the Napoleonic wars, and after months in London clearing up estate business, he is more than eager to return to the home he has missed for years. Although he spent his time in London looking for a suitable bride with whom he could return to his country estate, he found all of the young society misses too vapid and uninteresting. Jack and his friends recently formed the Bastion Club, designed to protect themselves from the snares of society’s matchmakers while they look for wives. After a deliberate set-up by a matchmaking mama, Jack has decided that he will never find an appropriate bride among the ton. He comes upon Lady Clarice at the scene of the accident, and attempts to take control of the situation. What follows is a battle of wills as Clarice proves she is no fainthearted female, and is perfectly capable in a crisis, while Jack temporarily conceals his identity in a bid to disarm Clarice.
The injured driver of the carriage remains unconscious as the pair transports him to Jack’s home, but it is on this walk that the relationship begins between Jack and Clarice. They are each intrigued by the other and unnerved by the attraction they feel. While the injured man turns out to be the victim of an attempted murder, and the situation turns into a political drama that could cause a major scandal within Clarice’s family as well as the potential of more dangerous events, Clarice and Jack are forced to work closely together to get to the bottom of the mystery. While they find pleasure in each other’s arms and company, each is unsure of the other’s feelings and fears their own feelings are not reciprocated.
While there was nothing in this book that I outright hated, neither was there anything to make it memorable or worthy of recommendation. I managed to find one or two redeeming characteristics in the hero and heroine – Clarice is an intelligent and independent woman, and one of the best descriptions in the book comes when Jack is first riding up to his beloved home, and as he spots it he feels a profound sense of homecoming. It’s obvious that he wants to be there, and that he would make a good husband without going through any reformed rake nonsense. (I always wonder how long a rake is going to stay reformed before the novelty wears off.)
But apart from these details, there isn’t really anything else positive to say. The grammar itself grated, with abrupt changes in point of view and tense, awkward phrasing, run on sentences and sentence fragments, and vocabulary words (majesterially?) that seem to have just been invented. In some books you may think, “Get a thesaurus!”, but in this book, I’d say the thesaurus was overused. And on almost every page, there is some example of synonyms being used to create an awkward effect where the words should just flow smoothly. Then too, Jack mentally dubs Clarice “Boadicea” and mentally refers to her by that name, but through most of the book it’s used interchangeably with her name, even when the narration is anonymous third person. For instance, “Boadicea had been nodding slowly throughout.”
As to the plot itself, the conflict isn’t directly related to the couple, who really have no conflict at all. There is no reason for them not to be together; they started sleeping together within a few days of meeting and understand each other perfectly. Jack is never overbearing and always lets Clarice have her way. At issue is that each thinks the other doesn’t want to marry them, which feels manufactured because not only does neither have anything against marriage, but as they are comfortable discussing any other topic, their mutual avoidance of the subject is out of character.
So they’re sleeping together this whole time, and not only is Clarice an expert at sex although she had been a virgin, but pregnancy is not once mentioned as a result of sex. They plan to have an affair until their passion runs its course, but take no precautions whatsoever.
The conflict is a scandal falsely branding Clarice’s cousin a traitor, but luckily Jack’s status as one of the ubiquitous former spies for England allows him to dispel the rumor before anything comes of it. Unless the reader has enjoyed the previous Bastion Club novels, the whole conflict is forgettable. The scenes that take place in London comprise more telling than showing. When Clarice’s family is mentioned, they are said to be among the highest echelons of society, but there’s no proof that they’re anybody special. Clarice is always described as regal and proper, but she seems impatient, unsmiling and humorless. It is hard to see why she is so well liked and held in such high esteem, or even why Jack likes her for that matter. In addition, she’s been out of society for seven years but still seems to know the latest fashions and who’s who, and is recognized by everyone as well.
I was so glad to finish this novel, and it took me several days because I kept putting it down or falling asleep. A Fine Passion certainly didn’t induce any passion in me; I found it altogether mundane at best and dull and poorly written at worst.