by Caroline Linden, historical (2009)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-170647-9
Alexander Brandon Hayes is supposed to be dead. He didn't actually die during Waterloo, but somehow he was identified as one of the many who fell that day. Alex didn't have a chance to correct the mistake, however, because it was shortly after that documents were found in his personal belongings that incriminated him as a French spy. His reputation in tatters, Alex let everyone believed that he was dead while he tried to clear his name. He soon became a spy for a super-covert section of the War Office. His new name? Alexander Brandon. Don't look at me like that. You expect actual spy-like stuff in a story where the Crown recruits implicated traitors to spy on the enemy?
In the first chapter, Alec embraces his old identity - a mere swap of his middle name for his last name, so it's not that hard, really - because his brother had died and he is now the new head of the household. He goes back to see to the estate in Penford, but only his mother welcomes him with open arms. His sister blames him for her father's death and his deliberate keeping of himself from them all these years.
Alec has a mission as well while he's in Penford. He's to look into the case of the missing father of our heroine Cressida Turner. Cressida is learning the hard way that her father might have really decamped for good this time around, leaving her, her sister, and her mother to fend for themselves as their financial situation becomes increasingly precarious.
For Your Arms Only would be a more interesting story if it weren't a romance, I think. It's not that Alec's story is particularly interesting, since Ms Linden's idea of intrigue is often set back by use of very dumbed down "spy stuff" like the hero using his middle name to replace his last name in his quest to remain undiscovered. However, whenever Alec and Cressida interact, the story shifts focus to Cressida's problem, and her story is more boring in comparison. Cressida has a problem, but the problem becomes worse thanks to the collective passiveness and unwillingness to accept bitter reality on the parts of the three Turner women. Their closest ally, Tom, is pretty bizarre for someone who claims to be looking out for the Turners - he won't spend a cent on them when they are close to being evicted from their house, but he's willing to buy the two sisters pretty dresses when they have to attend Alec's ball. Maybe folks in romance novels have different sets of priorities?
As you can tell by now, I am pretty bored by For Your Arms Only. I tried, mind you. I even had shamelessly addictive guilty pleasure music by Owl City and Tokio Hotel playing at close to full volume while reading this book in a vain hope to liven up the dreary atmosphere, sigh. The main characters never really come to life here. They are stereotypical archetypes given plenty of angst to mask the lack of depth in their personalities. I find myself heavily unaffected by their problems, disinterested in their romance, and bored by the case of the missing father. I normally have a good time with this author's books, so I can only hope that the author will bound back in style soon.
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