by Candice Hern, historical (2006)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21784-5
I'm a fan of a considerable number of this author's previous books so it truly pains me to admit that I find this second book in her The Merry Widows trilogy, Just One Of Those Flings, to be on par with the previous book when it comes to unreadability. Simply put, I could have cheerfully throttled the heroine Beatrice Campion, the Countess of Somerfield, with my bare hands because she simply infuriates me with her utter stupidity. No, it's not that I object to a sexual heroine, I object to a heroine who wants to be sexual only to then act like a complete idiot about everything else that comes after the sex part.
Beatrice is one of the three frigid Merry Widows who want to have lovers. Or rather, Beatrice insists that she won't have time to find lovers since she'll be busy chaperoning her niece Emily Thirkill about town as she tries to find Emily a rich husband. But during a masquerade party, she meets this man dressed as an Indian maharajah and gets carried away with him in the garden. On the bright side, Ms Hern has Beatrice demonstrating some things you can do using leaves and flowers to remove evidence of naughty behavior, which would be useful if you're like Beatrice, a hormonal dingbat with no control over her libido but is prone to "I'm SO ASHAMED! I MUST RUN AWAY!" hysteria nonetheless once her lust is sated. Our hero, Gabriel Loughton, the Marquess of Thayne, vows to locate his mysterious lady who was dressed as Artemis, although he wants her for a mistress rather than a wife, of course.
Just back from India to marry well and settle down to be a respectable Marquess, Gabriel soon settles down into a routine of ballrooms and parties as he tries to look over prospective candidates to be his wife as well as potential women that could be his hysterical garden lover. Just to show you how sound his instinct is, he quickly mistakes the wife of an important minister to be that woman, hah. Nonetheless, he soon realizes that the woman in question is really Beatrice. She wants him, he wants her. The trouble is, Emily has also decided that she will make a great wife to Gabriel.
I should love the fact that the heroine is seven years older than the hero (Beatrice is thirty-four) but I quickly tire of Beatrice. She is utterly predictable and she has to be such a dumb cow while she's at it. At first she is all about propriety. Once the hero has her once more, all her previous stance on propriety melts and she happily embarks on an affair with Gabriel. The author then forces the hero and the heroine to be discovered. The hero proposes. The heroine, previously shrieking about propriety, reputation, and other things that she forgets the moment she starts banging the hero, now decides that she'd rather be ruined than to be married again to a man who will control her. And then she is worried about her daughters' reputation.
I cannot stand Beatrice. That her principles are so easily erased by hormonal impulses are bad enough, but she then has to start pulling that "I will not marry and I'd rather be ruined" nonsense which is completely 180 from her pre-dumbcow phase where she was whining about propriety and reputation. It gets worse. The author, attempting to make her last few chapters more exciting and dramatic, starts introducing conflicts of the silliest sort at an insane pace to the point that two simultaneous miscommunication issues crop up in the space of two pages. That's not so bad if one of them isn't Beatrice stupidly misjudging Gabriel in the worst manner possible after listening to her sister who she knows is not the nicest person around. These conflicts are short, thank heavens, but Beatrice unfortunately comes off as taking this huge IQ plunge just in time for the happy ending. It is not a good thing when the heroine's intelligence seems to detoriate more and more with each turn of the page.
My biggest objection to Beatrice here is that she doesn't want to take responsibility of her actions and she also has no idea what she is getting into. Ms Hern wants Beatrice to experience some jollies on the side but she also wants Beatrice to remain a familiar heroine in a Regency historical who will stupidly announce that she'd rather be a defiant pariah when she's caught in the act rather than to lie in the bed she has made. The thing is, Stephanie Laurens or other authors who are fond of putting these heroines into their romances don't usually have these heroines bleating about a reputation they have to protect at all cost. These heroines aren't women in a charity that depend entirely on them being viewed as virtuous to succeed. These heroines don't happily have affairs after the initial boinkfest (in this case, the second boinkfest) with their previous doubts magically unable to hold them back. And when they are caught, these heroines don't stupidly insist on wanting to be "independent or free" even if this means the tainting of the reputation of the Merry Widows' charity (and thus affecting the livelihoods of the widows dependent on the charity) and ruining their own daughters' standing in society. And while they are at it, they certainly don't listen to unsubstantiated gossips from someone that they know to be an unpleasant harridan and immediately fly into ridiculous conclusions about a matter that they insist that they really don't care about a few chapters earlier.
In short, they aren't deathworthy, hypocritical, and misguidedly self-important twits like Beatrice here.
The next book, by the way, features the biggest and most starchy frigid Merry Widow paired with a vicious rake who has made appearances in this book as well as the previous one. If the trend that is evident in this book and the one that comes before it is to follow, I am very afraid of what I will find in that book. Why can't the nice and easy-going Merry Widows like Penelope and Wilhelmina get their stories? I'd rather be reading about Penelope's happy affair with her pleasant young man that all these self-important unprincipled so-called virtuous weak-willed frigid hags who at the end of the day can't do anything right apart from wringing their hands and making a mess out of everything.
This book at Amazon.com
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