You and No Other
You and No Other is a reasonably well-written Regency-set historical that tells the story of a widow whose feckless brother-in-law has gambled away her house. Lady Caroline Pearson is determined to get the deed to her home back from current owner James Farrington, a self-made man who also happens to be an irresistible rake. If Caroline is successful, then of course she won’t ever need to see James again. But as both Caroline and James soon realize, they are attracted to each other.
Caroline, who was mistreated by her husband, wants to be left to her widow’s weeds even though she is a youthful and vibrantly beautiful 30-year-old. James needs to marry nobility to gain a special license for his successful business.
Added to this mix are Minerva, Caroline’s aunt-by-marriage, Minerva’s scandalous friends, and the mother of the girl James needs to marry, who holds a decades-old grudge against Minerva. There is no life and death danger in this book in the traditional sense, unless you consider how the hero and heroine feel alive or dead when they are with or without one another.
Minerva and her well-meaning friends bring humor and pathos to the story. Try as they may, their well-meaning efforts almost always backfire, exposing Caroline to more scandal. But the reader roots for their efforts, hoping (and knowing) the pay-off will be an ending of happily-ever-after.
Throughout most of the book, the would-be lovers are either thrown together or forced apart, where they fume and fuss and feel insulted in typical romance novel style. Frankly, I don’t blame Caroline for being angry at James. If a man I’d just met stuck his hand down my bodice, I’d be more than furious. After that, however, the author has the good sense to let the sexual tension build until their first “go” at each other, which is one of the few touching scenes these characters share in the book.
Caroline has a standard “romance” background. Raised by stereotypically cold and unfeeling English parents, she endures an empty marriage to a brute who uses up her fortune, and never feels loved until she meets Minerva. While such a sad life elicits much sympathy from the reader, it made this reviewer wonder why heroines (and heroes for that matter) so often seem to have such loveless histories. It can make for better drama, but it seemed a bit piled on in this book. Was it really necessary for Caroline’s rotter of a husband to have killed her dog for messing the rug?
The hero has led a similarly bleak life, and the reader never learns exactly why he is driven to achieve his success. Ultimately, James is simply a one-note-man. Charming, handsome, with the ability to fit in anywhere it was required, he just didn’t do much for me. I’ll admit that his singing love songs to Caroline while kidnapped in her basement was clever, but some authors write clever when they should write feeling.
One of the most touching scenes in this love story was not between the lead characters at all, but between Minerva and her enemy, determined to hurt Caroline as a way of “getting back” at Minerva. While Caroline and James did share a couple of poignant scenes, (their first love scene as alluded to above, and their second, where she sends him away to marry the girl he doesn’t love so that he can achieve the pinnacle of success he desires), most of their scenes were clever and “smart.”
I don’t know about you, but to this reviewer, a romance needs more than clever and “smart.” This reviewer needs poignancy and heartfelt moments. There just weren’t enough of them in this book to satisfy. I wish the author had woken up (as Caroline did because of James), and put a bit more feeling into their relationship when they were together.