In Your Arms Again
Another new to me author and sadly another disappointment. I’m giving Kathryn Smith’s latest a low grade not because of one tremendous flaw but because of a host of smaller ones that overwhelmed any positive feelings I had. In her newest Ryland Brothers book, Ms. Smith tells the reader about an abiding love and tells of deep-seated angst, but there’s little urgency or believability, and none of it is shown to the reader. Repeating a scene over and over doesn’t build intensity – just impatience.
Lady Octavia Vaux-Daventry and North Sheffield-Ryland grew up together amongst the riffraff in the world of the London theaters. When Octavia (Vie) was eighteen her estranged grandfather found her and took her into his household. Though he gave her the life of an aristocratic lady, he extracted a couple of promises from her. She must never have any contact with those from her old life (especially North) and she must marry his heir, Lord Spinton. Twelve years later her promises are becoming impossible to keep. North has re-entered her life and she is having a hard time making herself give him up again.
As the bastard son of an aristocrat, North crafted a life for himself that limits his contact with the ton and the woman he loves, Vie. Though his work as an investigator sometimes brings him into contact with the aristocracy, North strives to keep it to a minimum. All that effort comes to naught and North is once again face to face with Octavia. If that weren’t bad enough, Octavia’s almost-fiancée, Lord Spinton, wants to hire North to find out who may be stalking her.
Initially I was happy that this couple was angsting about their feelings. It lent a darker tone to a sub-genre that has become increasingly fluffy. My happiness was short-lived. These people don’t just experience angst, they dwell in it. They wallow in it. And that makes them not only uninteresting but unlikable besides. The development of Octavia in particular suffers for her angst. She promised her grandfather before he died that she would marry Lord Spinton. It says so on page 37 and page 58 and page 89 and page 129 and too many other pages to count. That alone was overkill. But what really works against any sympathy factor for Octavia’s dilemma is her contemptuous attitude towards Lord Spinton. Her thoughts, expressed frequently to the reader, run something like this.
“Here he was, the man she was expected to marry. A friendly, good-looking dolt who obviously didn’t realize just how ignorant he truly was when it came to ‘ladies’ and the diversions they found entertaining. Thank God she was so skilled at hiding her emotions when she wanted.From her wedding night onward, for the rest of her days, she was going to be concealing more than she could reveal. What a suffocating thought.”
“His smile was kind, patient even. It should have made her feel even more guilty. Perhaps it did. Maybe that was why she had the sudden urge to slap it off his face.”
North doesn’t fare quite as badly as his Vie but his behavior is equally repetitive. He loves her, he must stay away for her own good, he must protect her, nothing can come of their relationship, and it goes on. The true problem in all of this is the writing. Both North and Vie frequently occupy entire pages arguing with themselves. North over his inappropriate love for Vie and Vie her promises to the dead people in her life. “Wouldn’t her grandfather rather his heir be happy? Did it matter which granddaughter Spinton married? Yes, it did. She knew it did.” And so on. Hardly fascinating reading.
The stalking plot-point basically comes to nothing and the backstory of North and Vie’s relationship certainly didn’t ring true. But what keeps this from an unadulterated F is the fact that Ms. Smith seems to be trying to break away from the innocuous regency historical pack and I can applaud that if nothing else.