The Abduction of Julia
Do you like marriage-of-convenience plots? Are you a big fan of Julie Garwood’s books? If so, you’ll probably find The Abduction of Julia quite a satisfying read. And while this storyline doesn’t normally appeal to me and I didn’t even like the heroine too well, there were elements in this book that had me smiling, as well as a pleasant little twist at the end.
Alec MacLean, Viscount Hunterston, must be married by midnight, or lose his fortune to his cousin Nick. His late grandfather even picked out his bride, the daughter of the earl of Covington. This is a negligible problem for Alec, since Therese Frant, only child of the last man to hold that title, wants Alec’s money as much as he does. He arranges with her to elope. Once they’ve left London, he opens the carriage door, expecting to find a gorgeous blonde. Instead, he discovers a plain, mousy-brown, bespectacled woman, and it dawns on him that he’s run off with the wrong Frant. This isn’t Therese; it’s her American cousin Julia, better known as the Frant Dragon.
Julia’s been living with her aunt and cousin since she arrived in London four years ago, and has been in love with Alec from the first moment she saw him. She’s well known as a do-gooder, and she quickly realizes that if she marries Alec, she’ll be able to support her pet charity, a society devoted to helping streetwalkers leave their lives of vice and misery. Julia explains to Alec that her own father held the Covington title for two days before he died, so if Alec marries her, he’ll still be fulfilling that condition of his grandfather’s will.
But there’s a second condition that’s going to be a bit trickier to negotiate. Knowing what a reprobate Alec had become, his grandfather further stipulated that once married, the viscount and his bride must live in London society scandal-free for a year. And there are plenty of people around, two especially, who would be more than happy to see Alec and Julia fail in that regard, either through Julia’s ignorance of the ins and outs of society, or Alec’s wild living.
The main problem between Alec and Julia is poor communication, and it sets the stage for a Big Misunderstanding. Sure, Julia confesses to him that she’s been in love with someone for four years, but she doesn’t tell Alec he’s the one. And he doesn’t press her for the man’s identity, merely assuming it must be Nick, since everyone knows Nick is more handsome and charming. Meanwhile, Alec’s desire for Julia is growing, and the tension between them is mounting, each afraid to act on it for fear of being humiliated by the other.
Alec is presented as your typical soft-heart-in-rake’s-clothing, but he didn’t actually strike me as being all that rakish. I might have found him a bit more compelling if Ms. Hawkins had revealed more of his wild past, but the reader just has to take the author’s word for it. And as for Julia, she struck me as more ditzy than anything else. She brings one of her protegees from the Society – a drop-dead gorgeous girl – into her household, and can’t figure out why her husband would object, especially when she has the girl serving at a dinner party. I will give the author credit for not making Julia a complete gudgeon, though; Julia understands early on that Therese and Cousin Nick are not to be trusted.
The secondary characters are the usual mixture of smart-mouthed servants, a curmudgeonly dowager with a heart as big as all outdoors, and a bumbling best friend. Therese is little more than a caricature of a greedy, scheming beauty. The only supporting characters worth mentioning are Nick and one of Alec’s friends, Lucien. Nick is a straightforward villain, yet there’s enough ambiguity in his character to make him interesting, and he strikes me as more emotionally intense than Alec. Even with the hint of skanky villain sex between him and Therese, he might become a hero some day. As for Lucien, dare I think that the ground has been laid for this man with a mysterious, dark past to get his own story in the future? I only hope his heroine will exhibit a bit more sensibility than Julia does.
There were a couple of anachronisms that pulled me out of the story (the waltz was not danced in London in 1812, and the then-Duke of Devonshire was a dashing, handsome bachelor, not a married man in his dotage), but these are easy enough to gloss over. I can’t tell you what the “little twist” mentioned earlier is, though, without giving a spoiler, but it’s worth reading through to the end to discover it. While it’s not a major plot point, it took me by surprise, and I found I was smiling as I closed the book, which is always the best way to conclude a reading experience. In the hope that I’ll find her next heroine more sympathetic, I’m going to watch for Karen Hawkins’s next book.