by Teresa Medeiros, historical (2004)
Avon, $7.50, ISBN 0-06-051365-9
Teresa Medeiros' Yours Until Dawn is an inoffensive crowd-pleaser of the very best kind: I can only think of two reasons to give this book a less-than-stellar grade. One, I'm at a stage in my life where Pretty Perfect Caregiving Heroines tend to bore me and two, this book has a conflict late in the book that doesn't ring true and feels like a conflict added solely for the sake of conflict. Until the egg in the face that is that conflict, I'm having a pleasant time reading about a wonderful, caregiving, sensitive heroine helping a wounded, scarred, blind hero find happiness again.
Yours Until Dawn has a hero and a heroine that seem to be the culmination of the genre's apology for the bodice rippers of yore. Here is a heroine so sensitive, so kind, so caring, it is discomfiting to admit that I am on the most part quite bored with her. I know I should be nominating her for sainthood or something but I just can't bring myself to care too much about Samantha Wickersham. On the other hand, the wounded hero Gabriel Fairchild is quite appealing but wounded tortured heroes are always appealing to me if they are done well, even if everything about them - straight down to their names - is stereotypical.
Gabriel was a never-do-well sort of rascal until he becomes infatuated with Cecily March, a proper sort of lady who wants a respectable husband. To prove to her that he can be respectable, he joined the army, kicked French butts at Trafalgar, and came home with a tapestry of mental and physical scars that sent poor Cecily running out of the hospital. Today, Gabriel holes himself up in his castle in Fairchild Park to practice brooding, growling, melodramatic ranting, and stomping to an artform.
Gabriel's concerned family puts out an ad for a nurse for Gabriel. Samantha, an ex-governess, answers the ad, crashes into Gabriel's private sanctum of brooding darkness and overblown dramatics with her brand of uber-sensitive TLC, and the battle lines are drawn. Love can only result from their clash-of-wills, and naturally, Samantha, with her being the kind of heroine that she is, ends up becoming the biggest obstacle in the story when she starts developing inconvenient martyr tendencies.
I enjoy the tug-of-war between Gabriel and Samantha because there is a nice balance of humorous and exasperating moments here, with just the right amount of quiet moments for me to savor the developing attraction between the two characters. I'm not too sure about the staff of Fairchild Park (I keep comparing them to singing candlesticks and teapots from a certain Walt Disney cartoon and I like the singing candlesticks better) but they are a great foil to Samantha's rather overwhelming beacon of sunshine and understanding and Gabriel's tortured posturings.
But at the same time, I expect Samantha to be the kind to help people selflessly while making life difficult for herself in exasperating ways and unfortunately, Ms Medeiros has Samantha doing just that once Samantha's secrets are starting to come out. Therefore, just as Samantha stops becoming a one-dimensional candle by the window to our hero and is starting to become interesting, Ms Medeiros turns Samantha back into another exasperating stereotype. And Gabriel's subsequent actions reinforce the story's dismal plummeting into more stereotypical situations. Until then, Yours Until Dawn is going very well and I am enjoying it despite my prejudice against boring one-dimensional caregiver heroines.
I don't know if this is the result of editorial hijack or just some misfire at the author's part, but Yours Until Dawn is a book that shoots itself in the kneepads in a spectacular manner that has me wincing in pain by the last page. Is a book that has a great build-up but very disappointing pay-off any better than an outright bad book? Books like Yours Until Dawn make it hard for me to give a definite answer to that question. Still, the book is very good when it is good and I guess that counts for something.
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