A good romance novel is like a beautiful tapestry in which colorful threads weave a rich, interesting pattern. Every patch of color, light or dark, has a reason for being in that exact place, and the complete picture in all its glory is revealed only when it’s finished. A mediocre romance novel is more like lace. It may be pretty and creating it takes plenty of time and effort, but it’s less colorful and even when it’s finished it has lots of holes.
I like the premise of Joan Wolf’s Someday Soon: a marriage of (in)convenience between strangers who come from different cultures and have to put aside their prejudices. But this book is lace, not tapestry, and some threads seem to be there merely to fill in the boring parts of the pattern.
Lady Alexandra Wilton, the daughter of the sixth Earl of Hartford, has rejected several suitors because she’s not in love with them. This doesn’t please her dissipated father, who resorts to the ultimate revenge of a cantankerous daddy: just before his death he writes a will in which all unentailed property goes to the Jockey Club unless she marries his heir, the seventh earl. The heir apparent, Alexandra’s cousin Geoffrey, is willing to go along with this, but as Alexandra regards him as a brother she is reluctant to consent to the union.
As luck would have it, the solicitors find the real heir to the earldom, and he is a sexy Scotsman. Niall MacDonald is a clan chief’s grandson who distrusts the Sassenach and only wants to claim his inheritance in order to be able to afford more cattle to his clan’s Highland home. Alexandra thinks him obnoxious, uncivilized and arrogant; he considers her a spoiled English ice maiden. Consequently they decide to keep their marriage “in name only.” But the head of the Jockey Club and a rival Scottish clan leader threatens to challenge the unconsummated marriage in court. It appears there are spies in the household. And someone attempts to burn Niall alive at night.
The whodunit is as transparent as lace. The biggest mystery is, how anyone can be stupid enough to try to kill one person by setting his room on fire? The fire would be likely to spread quickly and could have killed people and destroyed things the villain wanted to keep unharmed.
There are some loose strands that do not seem to fit the pattern or are left hanging. The entirety of chapter four is written from the point of view of the solicitor who goes to Scotland looking for Niall. I suppose its purpose is to highlight the differences between Niall and Alexandra’s surroundings, but using an outsider’s viewpoint did not help develop their relationship. Alexandra seems to have emotional issues about her controlling, libertine father and her brother who committed suicide, but these things are not dealt with in any meaningful manner. The epilogue contains a syrupy Forever Friends reconciliation I found unnecessary and implausible. Forgiveness is a virtue, but these people acted as though a murder attempt was no big deal.
One more round of copy editing wouldn’t have hurt this book either. The many one-sentence paragraphs got a bit irritating at times. I’m also the sort of reader who keeps getting an irresistible itch to take a red pen and correct speling errers in the margins. “Perfidious. Culmination. Taken aback. Acquiesce.” There, now I feel better.
Someday Soon is mostly worth reading for Niall. He’s my favorite kind of hero: a strong character with a solid sense of right and wrong and a healthy disregard for stuffy conventions. He’s the kind of man to feed his dogs from a formal dinner table and to sleep with the windows open. His mixed Scottish and English heritage creates a fascinating conflict, as do Niall and Alexandra’s mutual prejudices. How does Alexandra fit into Niall’s Highland family? How will Niall manage as an English earl? This would have made a better book if the suspense subplot had been left out altogether and the author had concentrated more on these interesting aspects of their relationship.
Someday Soon has some bright moments, and if you’re looking for a marriage of convenience story that’s a little out of the ordinary, you could do worse. Although author Wolf has a strong reputation in the romance community, she doesn’t live up to it here. If you’re looking for a rich tapesty, you just won’t find it here.