Never Resist Temptation
When a debut book begins with a first sentence as finely crafted as this one, you get hopeful: “Nothing in Anthony’s upbringing or experience had taught him the proper etiquette for taking delivery of a woman won in a card game.” But, following this cracking start, it’s all downhill after that.
Sadly, an intriguing prologue soon degenerates into a patented wallpaper romance replete with language anachronisms so egregious I’m going to detail a few here just to give you the flavor.
Lay off (as in “lay off the pastry”): Page 83
You’re crazy: Page 142
Her Ladyship was a little down: Page 175
Sob story: Page 242
Crack (as in remark): Page 252
To make matters even worse, this level of language carelessness is mixed with a number of standard Regency-isms, such as “thin of company.” It’s an awkward mix and I never for one moment got comfortable with the prose.
The story here involves Jacobin, a young Frenchwoman wagered by her e-e-e-e-e-v-i-l English uncle in a card game. The winner is Anthony, our hero. Only Anthony never takes delivery since Jacobin runs off with a young cook – or at least that is the story she tells her uncle.
Turns out Jacobin goes into hiding by working as a pastry chef at the Prince Regent’s Brighton palace disguised as a man. Who shows up at the place but hero Anthony?
Anthony has his own reason for being there involving an elaborate plan for revenge against the e-e-e-e-e-v-i-l one based on the lamest of reasons. Since the uncle is a pastry aficionado, Anthony hires the young chef to work for him in the hopes that “his” elaborate creations will entice the e-e-e-e-e-v-i-l one to dinner, where, presumably, he can work his plans for revenge.
Of course, Anthony soon enough figures out that Jacobin is a woman, but he doesn’t know that she’s the one he won. Only Jacobin does. So, while she continues to hide her real identity from Anthony, she also finds herself a suspect in a murder attempt against the e-e-e-e-e-v-i-l one. And, would you believe that Anthony and Jacobin are soon fighting an attraction?
Honestly, the intricacies of the plot were pretty darn intricate – and I don’t mean that as a compliment. And, seriously, the basic plot structure is just flimsy. Anthony takes off on this ridiculous revenge plan based on the slimmest of evidence. Not to even mention that while I was trying to make sense of that, I was also attempting to figure out why Jacobin would hide the fact that her father was English. Or maybe he was French. Or maybe I just never saw why it mattered.
I also became distracted by the author’s use – or incredibly distracting lack of use – of recipes as a device at the head of each chapter. She uses one in the first chapter, then not again until chapter 9. At that point she’s on a roll and also uses them again in chapters 10 and 11. She then picks it up in chapters 15 and 16, but not again for the next 13 chapters until she sort of wraps it up in the epilogue. The incredible lack of consistency – or rhyme or reason – drove me nuts.
And then there’s the fact that while our virginal heroine’s first sexual experience is realistic, our newly deflowered one is enthusiastically and skillfully playing mistress and servant in pretty much the snap of a finger. Uh-huh.
Never Resist Temptation did have a promising start, though. If as much care had been taken with the rest of the novel, we might have had something here.