Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-24816-6
Historical Romance, 2015
Lady Catherine Mary St Clair wants to be an artist, and this want intensifies to a degree of a thousand shrieks from Justin Bieber’s fans when she sees artist Benedict Cole’s painting for the first time and imagines that he can definitely relate to everything she feels and sees in this world. She must be his student! She writes to him, but alas, he doesn’t respond. Meanwhile, her parents are not happy with her “artistic tendencies” and insist that she marries some guy of their choosing (the guy is a creep, naturally). Desperate, determined, she sneaks off to Benedict’s place, and gets mistaken for his latest model. As ‘Cameo Ashe’, she starts connecting with him, and it’s not long before they start thinking longingly about bonding over Benedict’s paintbrush and having it touch every nook and cranny of her body. What can go wrong in this relationship?
Enticing Benedict Cole is Eliza Redgold’s debut effort with this publisher, but she’s not a debut author, so all gloves are off. And oh my goodness, Cameo is a train wreck of a heroine, who never considers the consequences of her antics on Benedict’s career and livelihood. She is incapable of long-term planning… actually, she’s even crap when it comes to short-term planning. It’s all about what she wants, so she’ll take it, never even considering what will happen until the crap spills over and gets rubbed all over her face. She doesn’t feel like getting married, so hey, she’d sleep with Benedict! It’s all about her.
The author is aware of her heroine’s antics, and Benedict really flays Cameo verbally when the truth comes out and he faces the repercussions of seducing a well-born unmarried lady. I tell you, I almost applauded Benedict in that scene – he’s actually a pretty nice guy, and while he knows from early on that Cameo is hiding something (she lies like an imbecile), he wants to be all understanding and kind, giving her time to trust him and come clean to him about what he perceives to be problems that force her to take on someone else’s identity. The only lack of judgment on his part is to let his paintbrush convince him that Cameo is the model of his dreams and he must keep her on until he completes what he believes to be his greatest work to date.
Unfortunately, Cameo is the kind of heroine who takes one step forward and two steps back. She understands and feels really awful about how she is going to destroy Benedict’s life with her need to gratify her immediate wants, but she kills any empathy I may develop for her by accusing Benedict of being ‘prejudiced’ for not taking her on as a student – this even after he has lined out clearly how the problem is not about justice or giving a woman an equal opportunity to play silly games. Benedict faces very real consequences because of her social status, the fact that she is marrying a titled gentleman who is determined to ruin Benedict, and how he can lose his chance of getting clients or having his artwork displayed when word gets out that he has fooled with a nobleman’s unmarried daughter. Cameo only sort of understands this, sigh, but then again, I never have this impression that she is particularly smart in any way.
The author could have salvaged this story by showing me that Cameo is genuinely into art and not being just some art groupie who merely fancies that she can draw. Unfortunately, Cameo’s passion of art is displayed through vapid nonsense uttered by this imbecile, such as “Art is real life! Art is passion!” I wish I’m kidding, but those are the actual things she says in this story. When Benedict tries to draw her into conversations about art, she reveals that her knowledge of that topic is as deep as a puddle. Because of this, Cameo ends up a most unlikable and unsympathetic imbecile – she is just dumb, and it’s hard to be understanding when dumb people do dumb things due to dumb reasons.
Worst of all, the author then negates all the possible repercussions faced by Cameo in this story by the time the story ends. Ta-da, Benedict is the bastard firstborn son of the man who fathered Cameo’s nasty suitor – not only does this conveniently remove the villain in one big eye-rolling contrivance, it also means that Cameo gets to have her cake and eat it too. Our heroine doesn’t have to prove her sincerity by being an artist’s wife and being forced to actually live like a working class person. As a result, this whole story is basically about a very stupid, very selfish, and very insipid bucket of dumb who does many, many stupid things that nearly destroy the hot guy she wants desperately to shag, but in the end, everything is okay because things happen to make sure that she and that hot guy get all their problems solved through plot contrivances and oh-that’s-so-convenient coincidences.
Enticing Benedict Cole is as enticing as having to dunk into a tub of vomit.