No Decent Gentleman
I’m normally a big fan of Regency historicals, so when I read the cover blurb on this book, I was looking forward to reading it. What a letdown – Boring characters, tired plot, transparent suspense elements. Even the sex was tedious!
The Earl of Abingdon has died. Everyone says it was suicide, but his daughter Sabrina refuses to believe that. Two strangers show up just in time for the funeral, claiming to be old friends. The younger of the pair, Adam St. Aubyn, helps Sabrina fend off the unwelcome advances of her neighbor Edgar Briggs; in due course she learns that Adam, a mysterious yet charming man, has been betrothed to her since they were children.
Sabrina and her sister were both born on the wrong side of the blanket, and their adoptive father never divulged who their natural parents were. Sabrina’s set two missions for herself: Prove that her father was murdered, and find out who her mother and father really were. And there are other questions – What is it about Adam? Who are those Turkish servants he’s got hanging around? Why does he never go out on Fridays? Why is the east wing of his house locked all the time?
As I said, these suspense elements are as transparent as glass. If you haven’t hit on the correct answer to all the “mysteries” by page 50, you must be skimming as much as I wish I could have. The man who turns out to be Sabrina’s father is mentioned over and over and over and over; either the author just liked typing his name repeatedly, or she was throwing out clue-bait big enough to snag Moby Dick. As for the villain, let’s just say all I could think of was Snidely Whiplash of “Dudley Do-Right” fame.
Speaking of ’60’s TV references, Sabrina’s invective of choice, “Holy Hemlock” reminded me too much of Robin from Batman. If an author is going to go to the trouble of penning a historical novel, I think the least she can do is to make sure, within reason, that her characters are true to the period. Something tells me that “Holy Hemlock” was not a phrase heard much in Regency England. I couldn’t dismiss the mental image of a redheaded chick in a high-waisted gown, saffron-colored cape, and green satin mask skulking about London and the countryside.
I didn’t care at all about these characters. Sabrina makes no sense, alternately feeling attracted to and repulsed by Adam, often within the space of the same paragraph. Adam is high-handed and condescending toward her, and really snotty to almost everyone else. The addition of a few idiosyncrasies only served to annoy me further; on top of everything else, I was ready to commit a grave sin for a romance novel, and wish the stupid dog they adopt were dead.
Usually I can say, even of a bad book, that at least the story was Okay. I’m not sure in this case. Although there are no holes in the plot, it was not nearly enough to engage my attention. All you wannabe romance writers out there, take note: Seeing a book like this in print should give you hope. No Decent Gentleman was no decent read.