The Reinvented Miss Bluebeard
I had this vague impression that Minda Webber wrote light-hearted paranormals. Little did I know that meant encountering bad jokes and glaring historical liberties in her latest book, The Reinvented Miss Bluebeard.
Eve Bluebeard, the daughter of, yes, the notorious pirate Captain Bluebeard, abandons the pirate life for which he groomed her and decides to choose a different path in life. To that end, she goes to the University of Vienna, where, in spite of ostracism from students and disparagement from professors, she finishes with a medical degree in psychiatry.
At this point, my reading came to a screeching halt. A university allowing a woman to obtain a degree in higher education is a major plot point in this book and seems highly unlikely considering that the setting is 1830 England. I instantly did a Google search and learned that the University of Vienna began accepting women as full students in 1897 and then only for philosophy studies. Of British colleges, only the two that first began offering only some education to women did so starting in 1848. In an author’s note at the beginning, Ms. Webber admits that she’ll play freely with historical dates and accuracy, but that admission didn’t make it any easier for me to swallow.
Eve returns to London and tells everyone that she married Dr. Adam Griffin, who isn’t at her side because after their nuptuals, he went to Transylvania to treat an insane vampire client. Eve receives an inheritance that enables her to open her own asylum. She even lives in the big house that is the asylum and which happens to be conveniently near but outside of London. Eve chooses to treat the supernaturally insane because of her affinity toward supernatural beings, since her family tree includes quite a few of them, and her patients include, among other assorted beings, the Frankenstein monster, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, a paranoid leprechaun, and a fearful vampire.
Despite some success with her patients, Captain Bluebeard badgers her regularly into resuming the pirate life. He doesn’t understand or appreciate her work. Eve refuses him every time, and he demands that if she won’t go back with him, she could at least make him happy in another way by giving him grandchildren. She tells him she’ll think about it as soon as her husband returns.
The inheritance money runs out, and now Eve must court the favor of a foundation to get more funds. She is trying to make the best impression on the foundation’s doctors when, in the middle of wining and dining them at her home, a handsome man she has never seen before arrives and declares himself her long absent husband, Adam.
If only Ms. Webber kept the focus of the story on the couple. I liked Eve and Adam. Eve is a bright, capable person who is serious about her profession and cares deeply about her patients. Adam is an even better character – wickedly charming and mischievous. I can’t think of many romance heroes who have this much charm and a sense of fun, especially in a historical romance setting.
Of course, there’s more to the story behind Adam, nevertheless he knows, when meeting Eve for the first time, that he quite likes what he sees and soon wants her permanently. Eve is also attracted to Adam, but she can’t trust him for various reasons, such as her suspicions that he’s in cahoots with her father. But even while she tries to push him out the door, both physically and with spirited verbal sniping, he’s determined to woo her and to bring some laughter into her serious life.
While I enjoyed Adam and Eve, I couldn’t get past the plot point of a woman in 1830 England gaining a university degree in psychiatry. Other plot details are just as unbelievable. On top of those complaints, there are double entendres and jokes that were slightly clever, but mostly eye-rolling and groan-producing, such as Eve’s treatments of talking sessions, which she calls “Verbal Intercourse” sessions and Captain Bluebeard indulging in his 99 bottles of beer, which he liked to take down from the wall and pass around. One or two instances of this cheesiness were enough, but to my dismay, there were many, many more of them.
I enjoyed the leads and their romance, but for the rest of the book, I’d gladly like to bury it – at the least six feet under (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).