Something About Emmaline
One of the first things I thought as I read Emmaline was that I just had to let go and enjoy the ride. The airiness of the writing gave it a fairytale feel and that’s a good thing. From start to almost finish I was engaged in the charming, if admittedly unreal, relationship between the hero and heroine. I loved the sparkling and funny dialogue. I loved the very interesting and often comical supporting players. And I believed the unbelievable romance.
Alexander Denford, Baron Sedgwick, has done exactly one outrageous and unpredictable thing in his life. In a fit of desperation (and not a little drunkenness) Alex, with the help of his best friend Jack, created a wife named Emmaline. She’s the perfect spouse. The fictitious Emmaline keeps the matchmakers at bay, Alex’s odious heir Hubert off his back, and best of all…she doesn’t expect anything from him. Until now. Alex’s never seen, imaginary wife has just begun to redecorate his London home and the bills are piling up. Determined to confront the imposter Alex rushes off to the city. One little hitch in his plans to rid himself of the very charming invader – she’s entertaining the two people Alex would most like to keep in the dark. What’s a guy to do?
The new Lady Sedgwick has a plan. Emmaline is one of life’s survivors and right now her goal is to get admitted to the Marquis of Westly’s annual piquet game. The winnings will be high enough to set her up for a long time if she can only get in and put her skills to work. Posing as Sedgwick’s wife will give her an entrée into the game and the stake she’ll need to play. To that end she has thrown herself whole-heartedly into the imposture. Battling wits with Alex and enjoying the sparks that fly is just the icing on the cake.
From the first meeting between the unlikely protagonists I knew I was in. Alex storms into his own home and finds Emmaline in bed (where else?). Gotta admit, I’m a sucker for boy confronts girl in bedroom, girl pulls gun, realizes who the guy is and shoots anyway. Sure I’ve seen it done before, but when done right, with just the right amount of sizzle, I’m there. And sizzle there is. Even before she pulls the gun Emmaline has noticed how handsome he is.
She’d always had a weakness for impossibly handsome men, especially dark-haired ones. They were as irresistible as the rustle of a new deck of cards being shuffled.
Then she stopped herself – what was she thinking? She had a reputation to uphold. She was a lady now. At least for the time being.
As a lady, she had a duty to protect her virtue. Yes, that was exactly what she should do, she decided, as she took one last regretful look at the magnificent man before her. ‘Simmons! Simmons! Help!’
When help isn’t forthcoming, Emmaline pulls a gun and tells the dangerous stranger to get out of her bedroom.
“When my husband returns from.from.” Oh, demmitt, where was it that Sedgwick had his ancestral home?
“Westmoreland” the fiend offered.
“Yes, thank you,” she replied. “When my husband returns from Westmoreland, rest assured, he will kill you.”
“Have you ever considered, Lady Sedgwick, that perhaps he already has?”
“Has what?” she asked the pistol trembling anew in her hand.
It was at that moment that Emmaline Denford, Lady Sedgwick, realized she was about to shoot her husband.
A half page of writing has set up the dynamic for an entire book. Well done. And for this reader entirely appealing. I couldn’t wait to read on.
Emmaline intrigued me, but Alex holds his own. Sure a nobleman accepting some strange woman as his fake wife is far-fetched, but I thought the author wrote Alex with just enough exasperation and unwilling fascination to make it all hold together. Though he often wants to strangle the beautiful woman who has taken over his life, he also realizes how interesting she has made it. Makes perfect sense to me.
If I have a complaint at all it is in the too neat way in which things wrap up. Given the quick-fire dialogue and comedic sparring, there is a darker tone to the relationship and story. Emmaline does have a past and she has had to do some scheming to get where she is. It makes her a more interesting character and love interest for Alex. Where the book falters is in the denouement and how Emmaline’s backstory is handled. Instead of using Emmaline’s history to create real emotional depth, the author chose to resolve all tidily.
Climactic scenes aside I do recommend Ms. Boyle’s latest to anyone who enjoyed Nonnie St. George’s Courting Trouble or Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me. As in those novels, the chemistry pops, the pace flies, and there’s something amusing in every chapter (if not on every page).