In My Heart
With a first half considerably more dynamic than the second, In My Heart marks an auspicious debut for new Avon author Melody Thomas. Also writing under the names Laura Renken and Lori Morgan, the author’s first effort for her new publisher isn’t without flaws, but interesting characters and an unusual setting offer a fair degree of compensation for the book’s second half descent into melodrama and painful set-ups for upcoming novels.
Lady Alexandra Marshall is the daughter of a peer who, by determinedly overcoming the many obstacles in her path, has managed to forge a career for herself in antiquities at the British Museum. When she discovers that jewels on priceless artifacts have been replaced with paste replicas, she soon realizes that the title of Whistleblower is one that’s going to be far from advantageous to her career. Someone clearly needs to take the fall for the thefts and the Old Boy Network thinks it should be her.
Almost at virtually the same moment that she discovers the thefts, Alexandra is more than a little bit startled to discover Sir Christopher Donally visiting the museum with his 17-year old sister. The engineering tycoon, whose exploits are followed eagerly in the British press, was once Alexandra’s husband in a marriage broken apart by her controlling father. Still bitterly angry with his ex-wife over the marriage’s eventual annulment, Alexandra’s face, not surprisingly, is one Christopher isn’t happy to see again.
But, despite their misgivings, the two have need of each other: Alexandra desperately requires help in discovering who is behind the series of thefts and Christopher’s about-to-debut younger sister needs a guiding hand through London society. So, albeit reluctantly on both their parts, a bargain is struck.
Throughout the first half of the book, I liked Alexandra and very much enjoyed the author’s unique (for romance novels, anyway) depiction of the behind-the-scenes intrigue at her workplace. Clearly, a career woman heroine (and I’m not counting governesses, herbalists, and founders of schools for young women and/or poor children) is a novelty in historical romance and it added a distinctive flair to the story. Equally, her dealings with her incredibly manipulative father struck a realistic chord: Alexandra doesn’t openly stand up to the old bully, but instead has found her own ways to lead her own life. Foolishly feisty she isn’t and her methods of handling her Toxic Parent struck me as both realistic and understandable. Unfortunately, the second-half Alexandra doesn’t fare quite so well. With the mystery plot kicking into high gear and Dad getting angrier and angrier regarding the possible reunion of Alexandra and Christopher, both Alexandra and the plot fall into far more familiar territory than that explored in the first chapters.
Christopher is an intriguing hero, and a good match for the strong Alexandra. With a career he’s devoted to and a family business to run, he is a dynamic man of action who hasn’t let his hurt over what he sees as Alexandra’s betrayal unnecessarily color his life. To put it simply, he’s not on a ruthless quest for vengeance (refreshing in itself) and – wonder of wonders – he’s actually willing to listen to Alexandra tell her side of the story. I’m becoming more and more attracted to men-of-action heroes in historical romance and Christopher is a good one.
Christopher’s siblings (and you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to realize that their stories are forthcoming) are an interesting and lively lot and add a nice dimension to the story. Equally, Ms. Thomas does a good job of portraying the complex motivations and feelings of Alexandra’s father. Nothing is black and white here and – just like in real life – the relationship between father and daughter is a complex, many layered one.
For me the bottom line on In My Heart is a positive one – there’s a lot to like here and the good stuff definitely outweighed the bad. But, even more encouragingly, for those of us on a continuous quest for new voices in romance fiction, Melody Thomas is an author who clearly offers a strong promise of even better things to come.