Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-24820-3
Historical Romance, 2015
I was reading Annie Burrows’s The Captain’s Christmas Bride at a very vulnerable moment. I was feeling all mushy as a result of lingering Christmastime sentimental feelings, the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, and my old albums of Peter Murphy playing in the background. (Guess which TV show season finale spurred me to revisit those albums.) A romance story of a hippo dry humping a cab would probably move me to tears. The fact that this book makes me wonder whether the buzzing heat in my head is due to the nonsense taking place among the pages or too much maudlin thoughts – that says something about this baby, if you ask me.
Julia Whitney is a rather spoiled darling who thinks she is smarter than she actually is. I don’t blame her. She grows up in a family where passive-aggressive cattiness is a regular occurrence, and because her father openly dotes on her while treating her other siblings in a less… generous manner, her other siblings resent her as a result. When her father decides that the man she has a crush on is unsuitable, she plots to get compromised by this man so that her father will be forced to his consent to them getting married. Unfortunately, she ends up grabbing the rear end of the wrong man in a masked and costumed ball, and before she knows it, his head is between her legs, and then his head is replaced by his… oops, they get discovered just when the ship has docked, so to speak. Julia then discovers that it is the wrong pizzle in her roastie – it belongs to Captain Alec Dunbar. Oops, she’s getting married, but to the wrong guy.
This one starts out promisingly – Alec seems determined to make a go at the whole thing, and he knows quickly that she didn’t mean to trap him into marriage; it’s a trap, but not meant for him. Unfortunately, he then opens his mouth and everything goes downhill. Alec can be brutal. He may wish to be fair to her, but she seems to push all the wrong buttons of his – every time he opens his mouth, mean and hurtful things come out, often for no reason other than what seems to me like a mean streak that he can’t get a grip over. The denouement here is he accusing her of being a slattern. Twice, for good measure! And when he tries to apologize, the heroine is so grateful because she’s actually a spineless puddle.
Yes, Julia starts out a rather spoiled lady, but the author forcefully mutates her into a very insecure and emotionally needy creature who is paralyzed with worry at the thought that Alec would abandon her. Therefore, the later two-thirds of this book is basically Alec whipping and kicking a wounded puppy who is too dim-witted to fight back. Julia turns out to be a sweet and nice simple lady who just wants everyone to be happy, and the author only twists the knife in the poor darling’s gut later on by having all she thinks she can depend on to betray her, leaving her with no one but Alec to cling ever tighter to. And Alec just keeps being stupid and doing and saying hurtful things to her.
I’m sorry, but this is a joyless and even painful story in which I feel so sorry for the heroine because she lets the hero has so much power over her, and this is one “hero” who is too dumb and too mean not to abuse his power to keep hurting her over and over. Probably in a few years down the road, Julia would star in her own The Ballad of Lucy Jordan as a result of all the people in her life kicking her when she is down. Hopefully, she gets carted into the van driven by men in white coats only after she’s fed the husband some poisoned fruits for dessert.