In The Presence Of Angels
by Katherine Kingsley, historical (2000)
Dell, $6.50, ISBN 0-440-23599-5
In Katherine Kingsley's In The Presence Of Angels, the hero Lord William Fitzpatrick is a ... well, saint. He is a soldier in the Napoleon War, coming home from Waterloo with lots of emotional baggage. He believes it is time to make peace with his twin brother with whom he is estranged from. But on his way to London, he stops awhile at the estate of his friend Val Merriem. Val is his best friend and comrade who never survived Waterloo, and Will wanted to pay Val's widow Louisa his respects. Also, Will has a secret: he is in love with her.
Val and Will had read Louisa's letters during the war, and Will has grown to love the author of such sensitive, loving letters. And seeing Louisa in person only makes him go jabberwocky inside. He passes himself off as "Will Cutter", handyman and foreman extraordinaire, and gets hired as a staff of Broadhurst Farm.
Poor Louisa is besieged by bills, lack of help, and she is going nuts caring for her ill Daddy and her hyperactive eight-year old daughter Pip. She definitely has no time for naughty games with Will, but Will, ever the saint, is patient and loving. Slowly he brings her back to life, showing her the true meaning of joy (and orgasms) and love and what it means to be loved.
Except that somewhere along the way In The Presence Of Angels took a wrong turn and ended up in the Cliché Ditch. Sick daddy, demanding kid, a cheating manager... Louisa's problems are so overused. And poor Val, being the other man, he can't be a loving fellow. He's not (gee, surprise). Seems that Val is an unworthy fellow, and Louisa writes those letters just to soothe her pride and to irritate her hubby. It's a sad day when an author has to resort to unbelievable contrivances just to conform to a formula in her writings.
And I have no idea why Will has to resort to a false identity just to woo Louisa. Then again, I don't know why he loves her. The longer I am into the story, the more shrewish and shrill (and irritating) the woman becomes, harping on about how she shouldn't have fun, how pretty boys like Will aren't worthy of her trust, how her life is so miserable, ugh ugh ugh. And when the woman finally faces the true test of her supposed courage, she caves in and says stupid I'm so pathetic (damn right!) things.
Will deserves better. Really. He's a nice man.
There's one saving grace to In The Presence Of Angels though. I'm not spoiling it, but let's just say that in this case, In The Presence Of Angels is an apt title, and how this story gets that title almost moved me to tears. Almost, that is, until Louisa opened her big mouth again.
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