Miss Winbolt and the Fortune Hunter
Sometimes a book doesn’t work because the plot is so outlandish that you can’t possibly believe it could ever occur. Miss Winbolt and the Fortune Hunter has the opposite problem. I could well believe that the hero and heroine’s annoying conflict and pedestrian arguments could happen. Doubtless they happen all the time to boring couples everywhere. Whether anyone wants to read about them is another matter.
Emily Winbolt has a fortune, and is basically content with her situation. She lives with her brother and his wife, and though some might see her as a third wheel – or dethroned mistress of a household – Emily gets on well with her sister-in-law. She might long for a little independence, but she’s not pining away for a man. When one irritating neighbor makes some pointed remarks, Emily is so flustered that she marches home through a pasture, forgetting that it houses an angry bull. She finds herself climbing a tree for safety, and is stuck there for hours until a stranger comes along to rescue her. She falls from the tree into his arms, and before she knows it, she is kissing the stranger shamelessly. Eventually she comes to her senses and goes on her way, satisfied that at least she will never see him again.
The stranger, William, is actually staying with his godmother while he looks for a home in the area. He has recently returned from South America, and he has two young wards who will soon arrive. With these new responsibilities, he needs both an estate and a wife. He finds a home called Charlwood, which is in fairly poor repair. But he figures that he can live at the dower house while the place is fixed up. As for the wife, the best possibilities seem to be a young widow named Maria Fenton, and Emily. He dismisses Maria fairly quickly. She’s annoying, very forward, and a little too interested in Charlwood. Emily is a different matter. Though she hopes he won’t recognize her as the girl he kissed, he does. He teases her a bit, and they settle into a tentative relationship.
And this is more or less when the book gets irritating. Emily pussy-foots around. She goes from expecting not to marry to expecting a grand declaration of love. The she decides that she’ll accept William anyway. Then she overhears part of a conversation and thinks William is after her money. Even when he proves conclusively that this is not the case, she churlishly refuses to trust him. Then she comes around, and he’s not sure he can forgive her. This is the sort of blasé relationship dance I’ve seen many times in real life. It’s not interesting in real life, and it’s even less interesting in print.
As a diversion – if you can call it that – there’s a treasure hunting plot. The reason Maria Fenton wants to get into Charlwood is that a fortune in jewels is hidden there. She has come to town with a couple of thugs to unearth it. Since it’s been there for years, in the type of hiding place that couldn’t even fool Scooby Doo and the gang, the plot is unconvincing to say the least.
I count myself as a fan of Harlequin Historicals in general and Regencies in particular. I always like to give new-to-me authors a shot. But I couldn’t fathom why anyone would think this plot was entertaining, or the characters interesting. Miss Winbolt and the Fortune Hunter is – unfortunately – one to skip.