by Gaelen Foley, historical (2007)
Ballantine, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-345-48011-8
Her Only Desire is two different books published as one. The first half of the story is set in India, which makes for some interesting reading. The second half is set in England where it becomes a familiar yet over-the-top story that bores me to tears.
Also, while this book is the first in a trilogy, it is also the eighth book in an ongoing series featuring the Knight clan. The author is determined, it seems, to feature as many of the previous characters as possible, at least via a passing mention, that the story starts to get this close-knit incestuous feel to it. Let me illustrate. Do try to keep up.
Ian Prescott is a close friend of the English Knights. He is sent on a diplomatic mission to India to negotiate with the Maharajah of the last independent empires around, the Maratha Empire. You see, a particularly violent bunch called the Pindari are suspected to be harbored and protected by Baji Rao, the brother-in-law of the Maharajah. The Pindari is causing all kinds of trouble for the rest of the country. Ian hopes to defuse the situation before violence escalates. Ian decides to enlist the help of the two Knight brothers, Gabriel and Derek, who are part of the Knight clan that was founded in India thanks to a Knight fellow who went off with the East India Trading Company to seek his fortune in that country years ago.
While in India, he happens to meet Georgina, the youngest Knight sibling, when she charges in to save a childhood friend from a suttee ceremony. Well, this is India, so a suttee is sure to come up along with the obligatory Kama Sutra mention. It turns out that Georgie also has a friend who is also the favored new bride of the Maharajah, so she's determined to tag along with Ian to see the Maharajah. She also has this bright idea to somehow save the day and prevent the British from further oppressing the natives, although in the grand tradition of romance heroines everywhere, she has no idea how she's going to go about doing that. So, in this circular tale where it does seem as if everybody knows everybody else, Ian and Georgie also manage to do that argue-and-lust thing until Georgie, in a fit of dramatic stupidity, pulls a stunt that forces her and Ian to flee India.
In England, Ian turns out to be a tortured fellow haunted by the deeds of his cartoon evil dead wife while Georgie turns out to be a perfect sensitive new-age Mommy to Ian's poor son. Like all those other heroines with all kinds of Passionate Causes like feminism and charity, Georgie pretty much forgets about her fiery desire to become the female equivalent of Gandhi once she has a kid to mother and a man to love.
When the story takes place in India, it is actually quite interesting. Georgie is borderline dumbass too often, which is disappointing given that she has many interesting traits that one rarely finds in a romance heroine, such as working libido (she is not afraid to be attracted to Ian) and some lucid moments of self-awareness and even intelligence. Were she not too trigger-happy with the dumbass behavior, especially when she pulls that grand stunt in the palace, she would be a pretty fine heroine. On one hand, she realizes subsequently that she had been very reckless and stupid, but on the other hand the hero often goes out of his way to reassure her that she actually did a good thing by being stupid, which defeats the purpose of her epiphany if you ask me.
The villain in India is interesting and even human at times, which gives the story in India an added layer of fascinating depth. Once the story moves to England and Ian's dead wife becomes the main obstacle between Ian and Georgie, that layer is gone as this dead woman turns out to be a caricature of the evil wife. The story in England is also too familiar and too boring as Georgie miraculously transforms from Brat Superheroine Wannabe to Perfect Sensitive New Age Mummy. There are also all kinds of annoying miscommunication or failure to communicate issues to keep the story going. Really, when the story moves to England, I am moved to tears of boredom.
The romance doesn't ring real anyway. While I understand how the thought of losing someone can galvanize one into realizing that one loves that someone, there isn't much in the relationship between Ian and Georgie leading up to that moment to make the whole love thing believable. These two argue and lust after each other, but I don't see anything in their relationship that indicates a gradual development of affection.
Her Only Desire starts out okay but keeps going downhill. I don't know what happened, but I do know that this book starts out pretty interesting but ends up boring me silly.
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