A Love So Fine
What would you do if your best friend mysteriously “disappeared?” You’d investigate until you got to the bottom of the matter, of course! And that’s exactly what Liberty Thornhill does in Linda Ladd’s A Love so Fine. While the book has a strong plot-line, the author doesn’t do nearly so well in portraying her characters, resulting in an uneven read.
Twenty-six year old Liberty Thornhill, recently widowed, leaves her prosperous life in America to return to her English homeland to find out what happened to her newlywed best friend, Henrietta. When she arrives, she meets Henrietta’s seemingly charming husband, Raymond, Lord Lasserton and his seemingly rakish friend, artist Julian Rainville. After watching Julian frolic with his mistress and after tolerating his shockingly rude comments, Liberty unequivocally turns away his amorous advances. In fact, according to comments from Henrietta’s old letters, Julian seems to be the prime suspect behind Henrietta’s “disappearance.”
Initially, Ladd portrays Liberty to be a pragmatic, intelligent, and methodical woman. But when Julian, Liberty’s prime suspect, summons her to meet him in the attic in the middle of the night, she goes – taking her sleepy young maid along as “protection”!? The ensuing attic-scene goes on for pages and pages; Julian goads, mocks, and baits Liberty as she outspokenly attempts to learn more about him. Julian’s “half-lidded” eyes and remarks about Liberty’s beauty seem more eerie than sexy. I realize Ladd is trying to develop the raw emotion of Julian’s nature, but Julian’s actions show him to be manipulative and untrustworthy. I never felt attracted to him and I felt Liberty was acting out-of-character by accepting his summons to meet him in the attic in the first place.
Liberty falls in love with Julian, who turns out to be not so bad after all, since Henrietta is found safe and sound. But Julian actually marries Liberty in order to get back at her parents, who just happen to be his arch-enemies. So Liberty has to deal with the anger and resentment of her parents, as well has her new and demanding husband. My question is – Who is the good guy? Liberty’s father, who thinks Julian is the devil-incarnate and is worried about his daughter, or Julian, who set out to seduce and marry Liberty for revenge, but who now professes to love her?
Although Julian reassures Liberty that his love for her is real, this reviewer remained unconvinced. Julian and Liberty spend some time together at his estate, but instead of giving me a feeling of their growing affection for each other, these scenes almost sickened me because Julian feels no remorse in his manipulation of Liberty to get his revenge. In fact, he stoops so low as to “expose” nude paintings of Liberty to her father, completely breaking any trust or affection I had developed for him.
In the end, A Love so Fine is ultimately less than satisfying. The plot – girl tries to save her best friend and ends up marrying her parents’ arch-enemy – was interesting. But the inconsistent characterization in A Love so Fine was distracting. I just wanted to re-write the book so the scenes would reflect some of the love Liberty and Julian professed to have.