by Sabrina Jeffries, historical (2002)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81804-3
Sabrina Jeffries gets some of the nicest front covers for her books, and After The Abduction has Mr Most Overexposed Abs In The World and Ms Peroxide Boneybags in a carriage on a winter day. Nice. Then I turn over to the back cover and what do I see? The two morons, naked except for a fur rug over their bodies, lying on the snow. No wonder she looks dead, frozen no doubt, and he has this "Oh, what have we done?" look on his face.
The stepback artist must be from a distant planet. Heck, I live in a tropical climate and even I know that when I strip and lie down on the snowy ground butt naked, I get frostbite and then I freeze to death. Mumu, I tell you.
Anyway, enough about cover artists from Planet Duh. On to the story.
After The Abduction is book three of a saga comprising book one, A Dangerous Love and book two, A Notorious Love, as well. You don't have to read the previous two books, but it will help if you do, because the plot of After The Abduction is a spillover from A Notorious Love and the couple from A Dangerous Love feature heavily in the story as well. This book stands alone - I think - but reading the other two books will help, trust me.
Juliet Laverick was kidnapped by the pirate Morgan Pryce in A Notorious Love when she believes that he was eloping with her. Instead, it led her to a dastardly adventure of sexy kisses and dashing rogues and, uh, oh just read A Notorious Love. Anyway, two years later, Juliet hasn't forgotten the lout Morgan even as she tries to live a normal life of being bored by London milquetoasts and trying to emulate her bluestocking romance heroine sisters. Then horror, someone is slowly leaking stories about that Abduction! She will be Ruined Forever if she doesn't stop the stories. With her sister Rosalind and Rosalind's hubby Griff (A Dangerous Love), she marches to that estate where Morgan is rumored to be hiding.
Only to learn that Morgan isn't Morgan but Morgan's twin brother Sebastian, Lord Templemore.
But Sebastian is actually Morgan! Or rather, he was pretending to be Morgan when he kidnapped Juliet two years ago.
Still, now he must pretend to be Sebastian... wait, he is Sebastian, what am I saying?
"No doubt you were," Sebastian tells his audience, "It's a complicated story."
Preach it, brother.
Okay, it's not that complicated, it's probably just me, as I was juggling between a bad case of food poisoning (I will never eat sushi buffets again, I swear), the cancellation of Dark Angel on TV, work, work, work, and headaches when I attempt to tackle this book. I finally took the day off and sat down to read, and it became so much clearer then.
Alas, it also becomes clear that as Juliet tries to invade Sebastian's personal space to find confirmations that he is Morgan (she doesn't buy his convoluted story, good for her) and Morgan tries to beat her back with his togo stick and as Rosalind and Griff play Grumpy Cupids, Juliet and Sebastian are two very, very insecure characters. They want my love so badly that they all but go down on their knees, wear Monica Lewinsky's wig and blouse, and offer me the White House.
I like Juliet and Sebastian, I really do, but they wear me out. I have never encountered so much backpedaling before. When Juliet lies or thinks of a remotely "bad" thought, like how she wants the man who humiliated her hurt even a little, she will immediately gasp and reassure herself - and me - that she has a sympathetic nature, she is kind, et cetera. When Sebastian tells a lie, he spends the remainder of the paragraph reassuring me that he is lying because he has to, he doesn't want to, but he has to... well, Sabrina Jeffries and Jo Beverley must be exchanging writing tips lately. These two authors are fine authors in their own right, but they seem to be so afraid that I will even dislike their characters even a little that they must inundate me with descriptions of their characters' virtue.
It's just not necessary. Okay, maybe it's just me, but in a plot centered around deception out of necessity, I actually expect people to tell a lie or two. I don't mind if the hero lies to the heroine because of some overriding greater good. Or when the heroine feels less than charitable at times to a man who used her and then lied to her. Everything is okay, because the way I see it, there's no malicious intent behind Sebastian or Juliet. They're both nice, intelligent, and reasonable people, albeit in a thou-protest-too-much way. It's not as if Sebastian is lying to her because he wants to impregnate her to get back at her father. It's not as if Juliet is having sex for the most asinine of reasons (saving daddy, family house, et cetera).
So in the end, I'm so tired. I want to reassure these two kids, hey, it's okay. There's no need to tell one lie or think one uncharitable thought and then spend three sentence for one unvirtuous deed to reassure me they're nice people. Okay, maybe it's okay the first two times they do that. But too many times? I'm so tired.
Incidentally, I happened to watch a particularly good episode of The Guardian midway through this book. There, the main characters are essentially good people, especially the hero Nick. Nick's just screwed up and emotionally stunted, but he's getting there. The thing is, Nick does some not so nice things in the name of justice, but he doesn't beat himself up. He doesn't whine or wail that he's a good guy so please people love him, et cetera. All he has to do is to look at me that way, with those beautiful tortured bedroom eyes that Simon Baker does so well, filled with pain, guilt, confusion and seriously? It's okay. I'm really okay, we're okay, the world's still turning and life still goes on.
Okay, I'm way past coherence here, but like I said, I'm so worn out. Sure, After The Abduction is a fine story, I recognize that. I just can't stand what I see as the high noise to signal ratio. Juliet, Sebastian? I understand. I really do. Can you all please shush up now? Thank you.
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