Say You Love Me
A Retro Review
originally published on November 1, 1996
If you’re looking for a great Johanna Lindsey to read, look no farther. . .than your keeper shelf and re-read one of her older releases. Because Say You Love Me is not a keeper and will not be joining those other treasured Lindsey’s in your collection.
Say You Love Me is the fifth in the Malory series. Perhaps that is why Johanna Lindsey spent so much time on various members of the Malory family and so little time on Derek Malory’s actual relationship with heroine Kelsey Langton. This is problem one.
Johanna Lindsey writes some of the best alpha males around. Unfortunately, Johanna has written a kinder, gentler hero in this book, and it doesn’t work. The blond hair was a tip-off, and in this case, blond is bland. This is problem two.
As for the story, here it is in a nutshell: Orphaned gentlewoman agrees to sell herself at auction to save her uncle and aunt’s home and finance her sister’s coming out. She is bought by kind-hearted hero to prevent a sadist from buying her first.
He doesn’t know she is part of the gentry but falls in love anyway. Even though every other male in his family is scandalous and he himself is the bastard heir to the family title and fortune, he tries to conduct himself admirably to prevent scandal at every turn.
She begins to fall in love with him even though she knows nothing of the ways of mistress-ing and works hard to fool him so that he won’t know she is a gentlewoman.
The drama comes from his rescuing her from the sadist who must have her. But the conflict comes from his wanting to marry her, which she won’t do. She would protect her love and prevent the scandal of his marrying his mistress. Big yawn, made bigger because it probably wouldn’t have been difficult to figure out she’s really part of the gentry. But then, without this flimsy conflict, there wouldn’t be much of a story.
Sorry, folks, but this is much ado about nothing. This is a family that thrives on scandal. His father’s mistress is the housekeeper. The housekeeper is his mother. His father is getting a divorce. His uncles’ exploits are well-known to readers of other books in the Malory series. My goodness, he is a bastard and was made heir to the family title! I just didn’t buy it. This is problem three.
This book then, fails on several levels. The conflict is not credible. The hero and heroine are separate for too much of the story. And while beta males can be part of wonderful romances, this author should stick to what works best for her – the ultra-masculine, arrogant, darkly tortured alpha male.
Kelsey is far the more interesting of the two leads, and since most of us need a complex hero to connect with, the book does not satisfy at the most basic level either. Then too, the resolution to their dilemma is another let-down. When Derek discovers who Kelsey really is and Kelsey realizes what she did was for naught, this book went sailing across the room.
Family romances that are spread out over several books can be wonderful reading. Authors can utilize those family members and their relationships to illuminate and brighten the relationship of the lead characters. But mishandled, these secondary characters have a tendency to take over, which is what happens in Say You Love Me. Perhaps the author should have focused on the love between Derek’s father and the housekeeper and made Derek and Kelsey secondary characters. Now, that would have been interesting.
Johanna Lindsey used to write two paperbacks a year. Now she writes one hardcover a year. A Johanna Lindsey fan might not feel too cheated, especially if a fan of the Malory series, by spending $6.99 on Say You Love Me. But $22.00? Sorry, but I’d suggest saving your money on this one. Check it out at the library, haunt the second-hand stores, or wait until it comes out in paperback.