Sara Bennett used to write Medievals, some of which got good-ish grades here early on. I thought I’d check out one of her Victorian historicals to see if it had any promise. Frankly, my reactions were all over the map. The book veered from silly, to surprisingly interesting, to outright bizarre. It wasn’t a total wash, but it certainly wasn’t a tour de force either.
Olivia Monteith, attendee of a illustrious finishing school, forms a club with her friends. They call themselves “the husband hunters” because they all vow to take charge of their marital destinies and marry men of their own choosing. Fortunately, this club isn’t mentioned frequently, because like most such clubs found in romance novels, it is completely ridiculous and juvenile. Anyway, the man Olivia chooses is Lord Dominic Lacey, AKA Wicked Nic. Wicked Nic is her neighbor, and they used to be friends until she started growing up and he started feeling uncomfortable with their relationship. He has no intention of marrying, but Olivia is nothing if not determined.
You’ve met Nic before, or others of his ilk. His father died under mysterious and tragic circumstances for which Nic is blamed. Everyone considers him to be an awful person, so he has led a life of dissipation just to prove them right. Poor Nic.
The courtship process takes up most of the book, and is completely silly and unbelievable. Olivia frequently puts her reputation in danger in ways that are beyond the pale; the worst is her appearance at a ball for the demimonde, in which she dresses inappropriately and makes no real attempt to hide her identity. Anyway, Olivia pursues, Nic resists. Olivia pursues more, Nic resists more. He can’t marry, he’s a bad person, he will ruin her reputation…you know the drill. I was completely fed up with both of them – she was so stupid, and he was such a jerk. To make matters worse, there is a suspense plot on the side involving Olivia’s other suitor and his brother, who is “not quite right.” If you usually find such plots too subtle and confusing, then you will probably enjoy this one. The foreshadowing is liberal, obvious, and leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination.
Oddly, just when I had determined that the book was a complete waste of time, it began to get interesting. Nic and Olivia marry, and suddenly an interesting conflict arises. He’s in love with her, but not sure how to show it, and he keeps making blunders – mostly because he’s been dealing with mistresses so long that he doesn’t know how to treat a wife. They also get into some risque role-playing, which is kind of fun.
This part is short, however. The book quickly proceeds to its bizarre finale, which focuses more on the mystery/suspense aspects of the plot. It all culminates with shocking revelations involving Nic and Olivia’s family members.
So on the plus side, we have the glimmer of an interesting plot. Unfortunately, it comes late in the book; had I not been reading Led Astray by a Rake for review, I would never have gotten that far. That said, I’d much rather read a book that gets better toward the end then one that starts off spectacularly and then nose-dives into D territory. Still, a glimmer of interest does not a good book make. As an aside, the back cover copy of this book repeatedly calls the heroine Livy – a name no one in the book calls her (at least that I noticed). This knowledge could come in handy if you’d like to crusade your way through the Internet, looking for half-assed reviews. But I’m not sure that – or the book – is worth your time.
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