The Lady's Hazard
There is so much . . .well, bad writing out there that it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer craft of Miranda Jarrett’s prose. Unfortunately, this talented author lends her skills here to telling a story without a hint of nuance or a shade of grey. This, fellow readers, is one simplistic – and dare I say simple-minded? – story.
Heroine Bethany Penny is the bestest, kindest, nicest young woman who ever lived, while hero William Callaway is the strongest, noblest, bravest soldier in the history of all soldiers! But not everybody is good – oh no! William’s sister is mean! And the bad guy (someone, by the way, you won’t have any trouble instantly identifying) is the worstest, nastiest, most disgusting villain ever!
The plot revolves around the mysterious poisoning deaths of former soldiers living in poverty in London. William believes there may be a connection between the murders and wartime events that both physically and mentally scarred him. Hearing tell of the beautiful young woman who feeds the poor nightly from the kitchen of the gambling club she runs with her sisters, William initially suspects Bethany might be the killer. The two meet when he turns up one night in the line of hungry poor in an attempt to determine if the poison is in the food she dispenses.
Of course, Bethany is the nicest, bestest young woman ever and it doesn’t take William long to discern that. Equally, Bethany soon sees past William’s scarred and crusty-but-benign exterior to the shimmering goodness beneath. Soon enough, amidst interference from William’s aristocratic and really mean sister and a smarmy suitor with an eye on Bethany, the two are exploring their mutual attraction and working to find the killer.
In every review I try to devote a paragraph or two to the hero or heroine, but it’s really hard to do that here since about all there is to vicar’s daughter Bethany is goodness. And, though William is a bit more fleshed out since he’s an aristocrat who’s both rejected and is rejected by his family, he’s still basically that oh-so-familiar noble-but-tortured hero redeemed through the power of love. Sadly, the truth is that both Bethany and William are tired, two-dimensional clichés who come across as little more than parodies of real people. Well, to be fair, Bethany, does have a fault: She is so incredibly sanctimonious that I found myself hoping that someone (anyone!) would knock it right out of her. It’s not pretty, people, but, trust me, this chick is annoying.
Ultimately, the extremely predictable and flat-out black and white nature of this story isn’t even remotely acceptable, but what makes the book slightly bearable is the clear fact that this author is better than her story. Truly. I don’t know if the extreme simplistic nature of this plot was publisher or author driven, but romance readers are the ultimate losers. Readers deserve better and Ms. Jarrett deserves the chance to write it.