In The Night
by Kathryn Smith, historical (2005)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-074066-3
Kathryn Smith's In The Night is a Regency historical drama, which may be a welcome balm to readers looking for a little change from Avon's usual dose of Regency historical ha-ha's. While normally I would find this particular type of well-handled melodrama enjoyable, the characters are so joyless and humorless that ultimately I find myself craving for some moments of light-heartedness between the hero Wynthrope Ryland and the heroine Moira Tyndale. The plot is one where the characters are motivated into doing things due to blackmail and desperation to keep secrets, which is already a joyless premise in itself, but the main characters, especially the heroine, come off as bent on being as unhappy as possible.
Wynthrope's encounter with Moira comes about from a dare between he and his ex-mistress betting on his ability to charm the beautiful Minerva Tyndale from her sister's overprotective attentions into dancing with him. He finds himself attracted to the sister Moira but their increasing attraction to each other are complicated by several factors. For one, Wynthrope was once a thief and he is being blackmailed into stealing Moira's tiara if he wants to keep his brother's political aspirations from being destroyed by his past. Moira's late husband was gay - in fact, Moira is now friends with Nathaniel, her late husband's boyfriend. Nathaniel is the great-great British grandparent of one of the Queer Eye folks, I suspect, because he plays the role of the fairy godmother - literally - to Moira's Cinderella when she needs to go to the ball, so to speak. Still, someone as enlightened as Moira when it comes to having gay friends doesn't mean that she is happy. Her marriage to her late husband was a means of escape from her overbearing family so if word gets out that she is still a virgin, she may have to return to her family and this she does not want to allow. Can she trust Wynthrope with her secret?
One of Ms Smith's more problematic aspects to her writing is that she tends to be on the repetitious side at times. Here, she keeps having Moira bring up her Hymen That Will Ruin Her Life - oh, just buy a dildo already, silly! - and her preoccupation with her weight (Moira is uncomfortably close to being anorexic at times) again and again that there is this whiff of desperation around Moira that makes her a difficult character to get into. Moira also doesn't give good conversation. If she's not practising the fine arts of self-depreciation, she is apologizing to Wynthrope after making some wise-ass remark, thus robbing this book of any moments of rapport that could provide some chemistry for her and Wynthrope. Moira's relationship with her sister leans more towards "I Have To Like You Because You're My Sister, You Bitch!" territory, so there's no respite from Moira's relentless gloom and doom in that area either.
Wynthrope fares better (then again, heroes always do) because Ms Smith creates an interesting relationship between him and his brothers, especially with Brahm, if only because there are some depths in his interactions with his brothers as opposed to everything about Moira which is created solely to make her as unhappy as possible. But his relationship with Moira comes off as lacking because their romance seems to stem from desperation rather than genuine attraction. Everything that motivates these characters seems to arise from necessity borne of desperation, such as the blackmail. And even so, these characters spend more time trying to find reasons not to admit their love instead of trying a way to circumvent their problems. As a result, Moira and Wynthrope come off as martyrs and people bent on doing the right thing even if sometimes it's better off not to. They, however, never come off as people believably in love with each other.
In The Night would have done well to include some private moments of humor, banter, or at least some indication that the main characters genuinely enjoy being with each other.
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