by Amelia Grey, historical (2005)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-20721-8
Amelia Grey's A Taste Of Temptation is a problematic marriage story where the heroine tries to get her reluctant husband to love her. I feel that this is probably not the easiest kind of story to write since the author has to let me know why the husband is worth fighting for. This book however doesn't even have the characterization required to flesh out its story. Instead, the characters are cardboard-thin and they go through formulaic scenes as if they are preprogrammed robots acting out a story that I have read several times before.
Olivia Banning isn't the brightest bulb around. Her aunt decides that she has to go to London to locate the ghost of the man that jilted her decades ago and naturally Olivia is roped in to do the dirty work of snooping around men's bedrooms trying to get the ghost to show up. When she happens to linger too long in the bedroom of the notorious stereotype, er, rake Andrew Terwillger, he muah-muah-muahs her lips and she succumbs, only to find themselves hopelessly compromised. Olivia's aunt, probably seeing herself burning in hell for taking advantage of simpleton heroines like Olivia, decides that she will not sleep easy at night if Olivia's reputation isn't "saved" so even if Olivia whines that she doesn't want to marry - EVER! - she's getting married nonetheless to Andrew.
Andrew on his part decides that the new wife must have entrapped him even if evidence points otherwise and he also is that kind of silly oaf who will go ahead and do stupid things (such as looking for mistresses) just because he feels that he has to be free to do whatever he wants even if he's married. Olivia on the other hand decides that she will be his real wife whether he likes it or not. This is going to be a happy couple indeed.
While I admire Olivia's tenacity in fighting for her husband's attention and affections, I don't know why she bothers. Andrew comes off as a pretty simple-minded fool with the recalcitrance of a mule and the inability to see the obvious until it's almost too late. On the other hand, Olivia is no prize either since she's a typical nitwit romance heroine whose personality is a patchwork of stereotypical heroine traits. She and Andrew do not come across as characters in their own right, but rather, very familiar stereotypes with very little to make them stand out in my mind.
This story has many scenes that are pretty much formulaic rehashes of stories of this nature, including several scenes where Andrew realizes that he can no longer get it up for his skanky paramours. Some scenes are pretty okay on their own, but when I take into account the entire story, many of these scenes don't really make sense when they are put into the same story. For example, when the identity of the gossip columnist Lord Truefitt is revealed for the necessary happy reunion of the cast moment, Olivia's happiness to discover who Lord Truefitt is doesn't make sense because the gossip columnist did a terrible thing by spreading the news of her being compromised by Andrew. I find it hard to believe that she can still consider the person who is Lord Truefitt a confidante and good friend given that this "confidante" has pretty much forced her to marry Andrew thanks to the gossip column. A happy ending is nice, Ms Grey, but not a happy ending that insults my intelligence, please.
Still, even when Olivia and Andrew are both competing very hard for the "Who's The Stupid One Now, Baby?" Trophy, it is hard to muster the necessary energy to love or to hate the characters in this story because they are flat and poorly-developed stereotypes that are just not worth investing strong emotions into. A Taste Of Temptation is pretty much a taste of the same old formula served up in a lifeless manner.
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