Promise Me Tomorrow
Marie Anne Montford, a.k.a. Mary Chilton, is one of three aristocratic English children who were orphaned by the French Revolution. In England it was believed that the children all died, but the youngest (Alexandra) returned in Candace Camp’s 1999 release, Stolen Heart.
Marianne, as she now calls herself, has no memory of her life before she was brought to St. Anselm’s orphanage. When she was fourteen she left the orphanage to become a housemaid with the Quartermaine family. Fans of General Hospital will be happy to know that the English branch of the Q. family is as dastardly as its Port Charles counterpart: Marianne was raped by the Quartermaine son, then sacked when her pregnancy began to show. She would have starved to death had not a friendly ring of crooks taken her in. Now, nine years later, Marianne has become the thieves’ upper-class ringer. Calling herself Mrs. Cotterwood, she gets invited to exclusive parties, during which she makes maps and locates the safes, so that her “family” will know where to go and what to steal.
Justin, the Marquess of Lambeth, is on to Marianne from the first time he sees her at a party. He catches her exploring their host’s study, searching for valuables. The attraction between the two is immediate and sizzling, and Justin begins an intent pursuit of Marianne. But Justin assumes that this crook must also be a lady of loose virtue, and behaves accordingly. Marianne thinks that Justin’s just another arrogant nobleman, out to selfishly take advantage of her. Their encounters practically send sparks jumping off the pages.
Meanwhile, several people are searching for Marianne. Some of them want to restore her to her rightful inheritance and place in society, and some want to kill her. Danger, plus the crimes and misdemeanors of Marianne’s “family,” on top of the sexy conflict between Justin and Marianne, made this book a page-turner for me.
Marianne is a well-drawn and intelligent character, a mother who has taken care of herself and her child for years. When she sees Justin, her knees go weak, but her head doesn’t go soft. I liked her, especially the way she changed over the course of the book from an unrepentant thief to a repentant one. Unfortunately, this book’s biggest flaw is that Justin is not nearly as well-developed a character. He’s the standard arrogant Regency nobleman who sees the heroine once and must have her – you’ve met him a thousand times. It’s a mistake to put a really well-drawn heroine together with a one-dimensional hero: it made me think Marianne could do better, which is not how I want to remember the heroine of a romance.
There are a few other problems as well, but none are serious. The story of the missing heirs “sound[s] like something out of a lurid novel,” thinks Justin. Uh, yeah, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I didn’t mind too much, since this book is entertaining enough to make me forget about some of the whopping coincidences that help move it along. The villain is so evil he almost bursts into maniacal cackles. Since this is a sequel, the cast of characters can be rather confusing; I would have appreciated a family tree to help keep all the Montfords and Exmoors and Castlereighs straight.
Camp makes all this work by providing lots of action, some wonderful dialogue, one smart and likable heroine, and plenty of sexual tension between our protagonists. When I closed Promise Me Tomorrow, I didn’t think, “Wow, that was the best book I ever read.” But I enjoyed it a lot, and I do recommend it.