by Cheryl Sawyer, historical (2005)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21566-4
At first I believe I am going to love The Chase because I adore Cheryl Sawyer's prose. She writes in this arty-farty literary style that makes me feel much more intelligent than I probably am. Unfortunately, it soon turns out that Cheryl Sawyer is more like Isolde Martyn than Pam Rosenthal where I am concerned - she has a nice literary style in her prose but her story puts me to sleep. The Chase soon becomes an excruciatingly tedious story to read due to the agonizingly slow pace and a heroine who doesn't do anything.
There is an epic quality to the story that is best left to the reader to discover on her own, although if you're like me you may have a hard remembering why you care by page 150. Our heroine is Lady Sophia Hamilton who lost her beloved husband Andrew in the war against France. Into her life come two men: Jacques Decernay, a former French soldier who eventually served with the British only to be considered a traitor by the country he serves, and Sebastian Coole, her cousin. She will discover that her husband was actually a spy during the war and had ties with both men. With some unfinished business still lingering around, Sophia's romance with Jacques won't be easy.
The Chase has some strengths. The prose is a joy to read and I like how Ms Chase sets up her story so that it challenges me to think and analyze instead of just reading on autopilot. However, this book has more conceptual frippery than actual depth. Jacques is a pretty interesting guy with his background and the suffering he's undergone, but his romance with Sophia is so flat and one-dimensional in a "he adores her from first sight" manner that there is hardly any depth to it. This story has a genuine espionage plot that isn't some tacked-on "English traitor who spies for the French" thing but the heroine can be really dense about things even as the author has the secondary characters telling me how smart Sophia apparently is.
But the biggest problem I have with this book is Sophia. Much of the story is told from her point of view, which will be fine were not for the fact that Sophia is often too passive to be interesting. For example, in a scene early in the story, she wants Jacques to see her after a ball. But instead of at least making eye contact with him in the ballroom, she avoids him. She instead hopes that he will see her anyway after the ball because she needs to see him. I suppose it is a good thing that where she is concerned Jacques is the best and most understanding boyfriend ever who can also read minds or something because he ends up waiting for her after the ball. To deal with Sophia is to be able to read her mind because this isn't the heroine who will happily take the initiative to do something when she has to. I become frustrated after a while with Sophia's antics.
Because the pace is agonizingly slow and Sophia isn't doing anything other than to watch the world go by around her for the most part, the sleeping pill effect of The Chase is intensified. I want to really like this book, but unfortunately, I'm not an insomniac.
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