Patterns of Love
One of the things that got me this gig was my observation to Laurie concerning the honesty of the reviews at AAR: I admired the fact that the reviewers were not afraid to call a dog a dog. Well, Patterns of Love has every canine earmark I can think of in a romance. These include a preposterous plot, cardboard characters whose thoughts and actions are completely irrational, and dialogue that grates like fingernails on a chalkboard. If this book had a tail, it would be wagging.
It’s 1821. Lord Grayling Dunston, earl of Montegut (yes, that’s M-O-N-T-E-G-U-T) travels from England to Natchez, Mississippi, to recover Mary’s Fortune, a quilt made by his great-grandmother (silly me – I’d thought quilting was an American art form, not a European one!). This quilt contains the clues to a treasure Gray’s granny hid away years ago – and good thing she did, too, since Gray’s father completely depleted the family’s fortunes. Gray’s cousin, Rochester, had the quilt and gave it to Lincoln Marshall, a Natchez ne’er-do-well, who gave it to his niece, Baines.
A talented quilter and seamstress, Baines may live on the wrong side of town, but she’s bound and determined to get out of there. When Gray shows up on her doorstep looking for the quilt, she finds him cold and snobby, but she can’t resist him. She doesn’t understand why he wants the quilt so badly – and why should she? It’s not as if he’s going to explain anything to her, anyway. These two spend the whole book talking at each other, instead of to each other.
Gray invites her to a dance at his cousin’s plantation-at this point in the story, I felt embarrassed for Baines, since she evidently didn’t have enough sense to see how the other guests at the party would treat her. She thinks it’s only another attempt on his part to get information out of her regarding the quilt. Eventually she tells him that the quilt’s at her shack, but when they get there – it’s been stolen!
Baines has been working on a duplicate quilt for her uncle’s birthday gift; when Gray finally gets around to telling her what the deal is, she offers to let him use the copy. There’s the requisite attraction/repulsion between the hero and heroine, who only stop fighting and misunderstanding each other long enough to kiss and engage in some uninspired sex (don’t blink – it’s over that fast), then beat themselves up mentally for succumbing to their desires. The question then becomes not only whether Gray will find the treasure, but also whether he and Baines can find their own treasure, together.
There was hardly a thing I liked about this book. First, the names: “Earl of Montegut”? “Baines”? Gray’s cousin “DeEdria”? If I had cared more about the characters, I would have been more upset that they’d been saddled with such unfortunate monikers. Happily – or unhappily, depending on how you look at it – I faced no such dilemma. Gray is not too stupid to live: he’s too insufferable to live. British upper lips have never been so stiff. As for Baines, she alternates between hating and desiring the hero, usually in the same paragraph. I didn’t buy the basic premise of the relationship; I’ve never been a fan of “I hate you, let’s kiss” stories. To top it off, these two were the same at the end of the book as they’d been at the beginning, and I liked them no better.
The dialogue was stilted and artificial-sounding. Sometimes Baines spoke and thought in “poor-white-trash” dialect, and sometimes she didn’t, with no apparent motive that I could discern. And if Gray had said or thought the word “bloody” one more time, my wall would have suffered bloody permanent damage. There was not a single instance of intended humor that I could find. A real shame is that the setting is wasted. The lower Mississippi is surely one of the most exotic and atmospheric locales in the United States, but this book could have been set in upstate New York for all that the setting added to the story.
This read went beyond disappointing to me, and entered the realms of aggravating. I could almost hear the barking as I flipped the pages, searching in vain for something positive, no matter how small, to say about it. The psychological gulf between a D and an F is a big one, and I hated that I had to cross it. What can I say? The book spoke to me. Guess what it said? “Woof, woof.”