Rules of an Engagement
The most interesting thing about Suzanne Enoch’s latest novel, the third in her Adventure Club series, is its setting in the South Sea Islands. The islands, with their blood-thirsty natives, spiders the size of small mammals, topless natives, and scary weather, are much more gripping than either the hero or the heroine. Sadly, the cumbersomely named heroine, Zephyr Ponsley, and her suitor, Captain Bradshaw “Shaw” Carroway, are, well, dull. Their romance, most of which takes place on Captain Bradshaw’s ship, never drew me in or made my pulse race.
Zephyr and her father, famed botanist Sir Joseph Ponsley, are traveling the South Seas to document the area’s varied—and well-described—flora and fauna. Captain Carroway and his ship the Nemesis are traveling to Tahiti to return a small bejeweled mirror to a one-eyed native named King George who must have the mirror by a certain date or else an undefined curse will be unleashed. (This plot device made very little sense to me and came across as just that: An obvious plot device.) Additionally, The Royal Society has ordered the Captain to escort the Ponsleys on their “important to England” research mission, and off they all sail.
The romance hits all the familiar notes: First Zephyr and Shaw dislike each other, next they desire each other, ultimately they fall in love. None of this comes as a surprise to the reader — as a couple they seem well matched and it’s easy to see them happy together. It’s not a bad tale but nor is it compelling. Shaw spends lots of time thinking about how he desires “the chit”; Zephyr worries that Shaw’s true love is not her but the sea (I found myself humming the maddeningly addictive 70’s song Brandy.) and, frankly, by the middle of the book, I was bored by them both.
The other characters don’t help the storyline either. There’s a group of snotty upper-class Brits whom Bradshaw has to deliver to Manila — his punishment for seducing the Admiral’s daughter the previous year — who spend their time complaining and wishing they were back in London. Zephyr’s father is insensitive to the point of cruelty and Bradshaw’s crew is eminently bland. The plot is often rambling and events that should be arresting – such as the scene where the monocular King George finally gets his long gone mirror back, or the moment when Zephyr’s life is on the line – are not.
On the upside, there is a funny parrot. And, to be fair, Zephyr and Shaw are intelligent and nice and — I mean this in a good way — they do deserve each other. But by the time I got to their HEA, I was happy to wish them bon voyage.