by Delle Jacobs, historical (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-883-6
The men in Bath are running scared in Delle Jacobs' Aphrodite's Brew because rumors are flying that women are running around armed with love potions to turn these men into besotted fools. Val, our Earl of Vailmont, initially discounted these rumors until he remembered seeing her cousin with a mysterious vial lingering around the drinks in a ballroom... shortly before this rather inelegant cousin was swept off her feet to Gretna Green by his besotted buddy who must have taken a sip from the tainted drink. Our hero, wanting to find a way to stand up for a man's right to remain a bachelor especially after his pride has taken a beating when he was forced to flee his house in Wiltshire due to his mother's latest matchmaking schemes, decides to appoint himself as the fellow to get to the bottom of these rumors.
But even before he can formulate a plan of action, he finds himself fascinated with a guest at a party, Sylvia, Lady Ashbroughton. She insists that she's not out and about for pleasure, but rather, she's watching over her stepdaughter Amalie as Amalie makes her debut in polite society. As Val attempts to figure out the identity of the person behind the so-called love potions, Sylvia gets worried when he starts pay attention to her because she's the one making and selling those potions to finance Amalie's social debut.
On the whole, I find Aphrodite's Brew a pleasant if not exactly the most memorable story around. The main characters talk and listen to each other well, a fact that I appreciate because there are plenty of opportunities for the dreaded big misunderstanding to crop up here and Ms Jacobs neatly avoid them. Sylvia and Val are pleasant characters but I just don't find them memorable, I'm afraid.
I don't have any issue with the story apart from the fact that I think Ms Jacobs lets Val discover Sylvia's business too easily. This doesn't make Sylvia come off as smart especially when Sylvia frets that being exposed can lead to Amalie's guardian taking her away from Sylvia. In this story, the clues pointing to Sylvia are so obvious that poor Sylvia really comes off like a dim bulb here.
Aphrodite's Brew is a pleasant story that is easy to read. However, I feel that it lacks that extra something - call it spice, oomph, wow factor, whatever - to give it some kind of edge over other historical romances that I have read recently.
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