Nothing But Velvet
Tales of the difficulties of publishing a novel in such a competitive industry as romantic fiction are legion. A novel like Kat Martin’s Nothing But Velvet makes you wonder if they are greatly exaggerated. Surely no one would choose to print a manuscript so lacking in compelling characters, interesting plot, and believable dialogue had there been another, even slightly more entertaining, to offer in its place.
The novel begins well enough – a murdered father and a brother falsely accused of the crime. Then, years later, the falsely accused hero returns to kidnap the heroine on the eve of her wedding. Toss in a bit of highway-robbery-romance and it seems a good recipe for a spicy love story. But it quickly becomes apparent that Velvet Moran, the dubious heroine of this novel, has little to offer a man beyond her looks. She has is destitute, and displays little strength of character – she plans, in fact, to marry a man for his money. She also has little sense, launching an inestimable series of failed escape attempts once she has been kidnapped. What is probably supposed to pass for pluck ends up looking like Velvet is simply unable to learn from her own mistakes.
Velvet is irritating early on because she so willingly agrees to marry the Duke of Carlyle simply to gain the title of Duchess and have access to his funds. Later, when it becomes clear that he planned to marry her simply for her (nonexistent) money, this is obviously meant as a black mark against his character. Somehow Velvet’s motivations are supposed to have been purer because of her need to care for an elderly grandfather and because the Duke of Carlyle is, after all, a murderer. This double standard doesn’t wash, even though the Duke is a bad guy.
Jason Sinclair, the wrongly accused and supposedly dead brother of the Duke of Carlyle, kidnaps Velvet to stop the wedding, and for the purposes of the novel, their own courtship – such as it is – begins. They fight. She is his prisoner. She tries to escape. He brings her back. At one point she drugs him and he collapses upon her, too heavy in his unconscious state for her to free herself. This reads as ludicrous rather than as believable or as romantic. Jason intends to keep Velvet only until the date of her wedding to his brother has passed. This seems absurd to me as well. Jason knows his brother desperately needs Velvet’s dowry. Surely the Duke will simply marry her as soon as she returns, late or not.
Whenever I get into this level of questioning the logic of a book, I know I have lost the thread. Velvet and Jason do little to weave me back.
After a hastily managed re-acquaintance during which Velvet and Jason consummate their passion, Velvet spends most of the novel trying to clear his name, pining after him, and happily giving herself up to him when he arrives. He spends the novel protesting he cannot have her (though have her he does) cannot marry her (though marry her he does) and cannot love her (though love her he does). Through all of this, Jason’s friend Lucien manages to spend more actual time with Velvet and indeed seems a better candidate for her affections.
In addition to the fact that Jason’s status as a wanted criminal presents an obstacle to their happy ending, Jason also harbors a terrible secret that makes him “unfit” to live with civilized people. Evidence of this savagery is never apparent, however, and when he finally confesses to the secret-awful as it is-it becomes fully and easily resolved/dismissed in the few pages of the novel that remain.
As a physical object, the novel offers an attractive cover, a seductive blurb, and 362 pages of effort, but Nothing But Velvet comes up nothing but disappointing in my book.