Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0482-0
Historical Romance, 2009
Now, I like Victoria Dahl’s style. I have this sneaking suspicion that she may one day give established authors like Sabrina Jeffries and Julia London a run for their money as she has the ability to blend humor pretty well with some degree of emotional angst. However, her previous two historical romances didn’t completely work for me because the momentum of those stories dissipated quickly, like unwrapping a box of delicious cake only to discover that the middle had sunk.
One Week as Lovers, however, has the pacing of the plot done just right. As you can imagine, I have a very wonderful time as a result. The only reason why this book isn’t a keeper is the way the author dealt with the plot.
But first, the story. Nicholas Cantry, the Viscount Lancaster, is feeling blue. He is willing to marry well in order to get some much-needed money for his estates that had been run to the ground by Nick’s grandfather and father. Recently he discovered that his fiancée isn’t just sleeping with another man, she also doesn’t think much of his masculinity as, in her opinion, real men don’t have to marry for money. Nick is like, oh, his poor bruised heart, sigh. A distraction arrives in the form of a letter informing him that his neighbor and childhood friend Cynthia Merrithorpe had passed away recently.
He hadn’t seen Cynthia since he was a kid, but he remembers her well enough to deem that a visit to Cantry Manor in Yorkshire is in order so that he can pay respects to her family. He soon discovers that Cynthia isn’t dead at all. She has colluded with his housekeeper to hide in the attic of Cantry Manor after faking her suicide. Cynthia, you see, is pretty much sold to the highest bidder by her stepfather and this man is a perverted monster whose last three wives had died under mysterious circumstances. She’d rather be alive, thank you very much. Cynthia’s hope now lies in discovering a treasure that was recorded in an old diary so that she can buy herself a ticket on a ship to America. Nick, naturally, is a gallant hero who can’t just stand back – he has to help her. You can guess what happens between them. But they both know he needs to marry someone rich and she also needs money to flee to her aunt’s side in America.
The romance is a pretty good one. Nick is an unusual hero in that he is like an amalgamation of the best traits you can think of in both a rakish bad boy and a gallant gentleman. He has a naughty sense of humor and he is certainly a randy goat, but he is not some oversexed rake who thinks that just because he is blue, the world has to be all about him. Nick has plenty of bad boy charm as well as gentlemanly chivalry. Oh, he’s not perfect – he has his moments of childish pique and murderous tempers, but that’s because he is forced to remember things he’d rather forget or he’s driven to defend Cynthia’s honor as well as safety. Everything comes together very nicely in Nick – he’s a most attractive hero. Cynthia is generally a competent and intelligent heroine, although she still has a few contrived only-in-romance-novels traits when it comes to sex and love. I like her. She’s a good match for Nick and their chemistry is so thick that I can cut it with a knife. Still, I admit that I am puzzled by her double standard – she thinks that it’s not okay for Nick’s fiancée to cheat on him but Cynthia is at the same time gagging for Nick to cheat on his fiancée with her. What gives, really?
It is the way the author developed the plot that causes the story to falter. I don’t want to spoil things too much, so let me just say that after all that headache and heartache over their joint dilemmas, the author introduces some powerful friends of Nick that happily help our hero and heroine solve their problems. The late quarter or so of the story is a pretty powerful read as the emotional angst is played out beautifully and masterfully by Ms Dahl, but I can’t get over the fact that she sort of cheated by introducing so blatantly the solution to our main characters’ problems in such an inelegant manner.
Nonetheless, by being such a fun read with a great balance of romantic humor and angst, One Week as Lovers has me sitting up and taking the author more seriously. Let’s see what the next book will be like.