by Winnie Griggs, historical (2004)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5302-0
A truly exasperating hero that takes passive-aggressive stance to ridiculous extent causes Winnie Griggs' A Will Of Her Own to sink like a stone. It gets to a point in the story where my sole reaction to the story is to feel this compulsion to smack some sense into that man.
Take the prologue. Will Trevaron is set up by his unfaithful betrothed who accuses him of beating her. He is more dismayed however by his grandfather who believes her claims. I mean, come on, the hussy sports a bruise made by a hand with a missing pinkie finger - that's Will's hand - and surely there are thousands of people will such physical conditions around London! How dare the grandfather suspect him given the evidence! Because of this, he will not defend himself. He will just take himself off to America where there is no such thing as Nobility and Elitism - the Land of the Free is where he shall go and make his fortune! Adios, Evil Ton!
The idiot is still carrying a chip on his shoulder over this six years later, when he receives a summons from England explaining that he has inherited the Marquess of Rainley title and is now his grandfather's heir. How dare the man summon him for this instead of telling Will that Grandpa loves him forever and ever! He will not be happy! He will deliberately marry an unsuitable woman just to spite Grandpa and strike a blow against the Useless and Evil Ton everywhere! (Of course, he's now a successful businessman, viva la America - down with the Ton!)
Will's idea of an unsuitable wife is Maggie Carter, the standard American damsel-in-distress with a late husband who spent his last three years in this world being an invalid, endless debts, and three children and a cat. Then again, one can argue that no one but a desperate woman would marry an idiot like Will, so at least in this Ms Griggs gets her act right. Will is taken aback when Maggie insists that the children and the cat come along with them across the Atlantic, but you know how things like this always turn out in the end.
Maggie, despite coming off like a contrived Jill-of-All-Distress, is a much better character than Will, who behaves for so long as if the world owes him a grand apology because his grandfather cannot read his mind once upon a time. The secondary characters are standard central casting types, the villain is a cartoonish stereotype, and on the whole, this story will be totally forgettable if the hero isn't so irritating with his constant whining and passive-aggressive sulkfests. He pushes this book from the "forgettable but readable" into the "teeth-gnashingly annoying" territory, which in itself a feat of dubious achievement indeed.
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