Enchanted by Your Kisses
When I closed this book, I found myself shaking my head, wondering how the idea of what constitutes a good romance could possibly vary so widely. My idea of a good romance: the couple meets, gets to know each other, and falls in love. The author’s idea: the couple meets, the hero kidnaps the heroine and treats her like crap, they fall in love anyway, and profess their love only at the very end of the book.
One thing that made this read so disappointing was that it got off to a terrific start. The first scene is funny and original. Lady Ariel D’Archer is about to be ruined by a man she thought she loved, and she’s suddenly realizing that meeting him in an inn was perhaps not such a great idea. As Ariel lies in bed with her erstwhile suitor, her emotions range from curiosity to disappointment, and it’s all described in a funny way. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. Ariel’s father walks in before they can actually do the deed, but although she’s sure her suitor loves her and will do the honorable thing, he dumps her and marries elsewhere, leaving Ariel alone and ruined.
Two years later, Ariel finds herself in a London ballroom, trying unsuccessfully to re-enter society. The only man who will do more than whisper rudely about her is Nathan Trevain. He invites her to dance, and reluctantly she agrees. Before she knows what to think about him, he proposes that they fake an engagement. That will show the mean ton biddies! But Nathan has ulterior motives which Ariel soon discovers. He’s actually a notorious spy from the former colonies, in town to find his brother, who was kidnapped and impressed during the war. Nathan knows that Ariel’s father is an admiral, and he hopes to get close to her so he can search her home and find some clue to his brother’s whereabouts. His plans go awry when Ariel figures out what he’s up to, so he decides to kidnap her and use her to get information.
Ariel had thought at first that Nathan had offered to help her out of the kindness of his heart, and she is very hurt when she discovers that he was just using her. The kidnapping also annoys her, but she finds herself oddly attracted to Nathan. Why? I suppose because he’s handsome. She also feels sorry for him because he is looking for his brother. That’s the extent of their connection as far as I could discern, and not nearly enough to satisfy this reviewer. The book from this point seems a series of scenes basically designed to keep Ariel and Nathan from trusting each other or professing their love.
I think kidnapping and hostage situations can work in a romance, but it doesn’t work here. Nathan’s behavior almost immediately goes beyond the pale. He ties Ariel up so that she is uncomfortable, and makes her spend the night freezing in a deathtrap of a house. When they wake up, he ties her to a tree and gags her while he goes to town to get a horse. When he returns, they both suffer through an awful scene that is rife with continuity problems; the author has Ariel mount a horse with her hands tied behind her back and give him a kick, thinking she can escape. Unfortunately, Ariel “forgets” (this is the author’s word, not mine) to grab onto the horse’s mane and she falls off, hitting the ground hard. How she could have grabbed the horse’s mane when her hands were tied behind her back is a complete mystery to me. Although Ariel apologizes (!) for making the horse run off, Nathan thinks the only suitable way to punish her is to tie a blanket over her head and pretend to leave her. When she tries to run after him and runs smack into a tree instead, Nathan thinks it is really funny. This is a hero? Ariel the doormat is quickly won over when he removes the blanket and asks if she’s okay:
And suddenly she didn’t care if he’d just laughed at her. Didn’t care that he’d kidnapped her. Or that he’d intended to use her and then betray her.
Right then I wanted to lead poor Ariel to the self-help section of a modern bookstore and hand her something useful like Codependent No More or Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. Nathan never gets much better. Right from the start he has no problem with the kidnapping, because he thinks Ariel has betrayed him. All she did was figure out that he was an ex-spy trying to use her, which was entirely true. He considers her attempts to escape further betrayals on her part, like she’s supposed to docilely follow him and lick his boots. Eventually they both realize they are in love with each other, but no explanation is given for it. Perhaps it happens during one of their many arguments, which are probably supposed to be “banter” but come across mean-spirited.
Those were my main problems with the book, but I have to mention another niggle because it’s the second time I have seen it in a month. This book takes place right after the Revolutionary War ends (in the latter part of the Georgian period), and the British military personnel repeatedly refer to Nathan and his brother as “patriots.” They would never have done this, because to them the loyalists were the patriots. But then this book adheres to the history-as-window-dressing philosophy anyway, with lots of anachronistic phrases (people “have their druthers,” for one).
If you want to read a fresh, original opening scene, pick this up and read the prologue in the bookstore. Then if I were you I’d put it down and get something better instead.