Much Ado About Jack
The first thing you need to know about Much Ado about Jack is that there is no “Jack.” Had I known that going in, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to read this book. Our hero, James, is called Jack once or twice by mistake. Anyone who names their book after a deliberate mispronunciation of their main character’s name—a mispronunciation which occurs not even a handful of times and thus seems pointless—is not an author I’d care to read, frankly.
Angelique Beauchamp and James Montgomery first meet aboard her ship in London. It’s a strange meeting—the ship is deserted save for Angelique, James, and a boy up in the rigging, and in spite of the fact that James is a captain looking for work and Angelique is in need of a new captain and crew, he and Angelique never discuss his possible employment on her ship. In fact, they don’t discuss much of anything during their meeting—mostly they stand there desiring each other. Then James inquires after Angelique’s name, and she walks off, never knowing his.
After this random meeting, James decides that he really wants to pursue Angelique. Never mind that she’s a countess and he a mere captain, never mind that she doesn’t seem to care about him a whit—James is decided. So he asks around, discovers what balls she’ll be at, and then shows up there. He pursues her, she’s intrigued by him, and eventually all of society has decided that they’re lovers. They run off to the country for a bit so that Angelique can collect her late husband’s illegitimate daughter—James follows Angelique even though they’ve met all of four times at that point—and the rest of the book is spent dealing with an awful duke who’s bent on destroying Angelique’s shipping business. Apparently there is a companion book about Angelique’s friend which takes place during the same time, and this duke is really a part of her story which bled into Angelique’s.
Although the plot didn’t quite work for me—it seemed a little random that the duke popped up and became a real problem for the latter part of the story—I think I could have liked this book much better had I understood the characters more. It’s possible that their meeting on the ship was love at first sight. Certainly James acted like it was. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really sure of James’ feelings, and so every time he followed Angelique here and there, showing up at her house and acting protective of her, even though he’d only known her a matter of days…..well, it seemed rather stalker-ish to me. After all, that’s same behavior the villains of other books will often exhibit.
Angelique’s thoughts and feelings were a little better drawn out, although they were by no means perfect. I knew that she’d been burned by love, but I wasn’t sure if it was her husband or her old lover, Anthony, who really hurt her. I didn’t even know for sure how long she was married. Perhaps I’d understand all this better—especially her relationship with Anthony—if I’d read another book by this author. However, I don’t think a well-explained backstory is too much to ask of an author, especially not when that backstory is essential to understanding a main character.
Overall, this book was a bit below mediocre. The story didn’t pain me, but it definitely didn’t draw me in. I really just wanted to understand the characters better, get rid of the villainous-duke part of the plot, and change the title. I think authors should either include characters’ actual names in titles or not include them at all. Much Ado about James might not have the same ring to it, but it would have the benefit of being much less confusing.