Berkley Sensation, $5.99, ISBN 0-425-19656-9
Historical Romance, 2004
Deborah Simmons is one of my favorite authors. Nothing would please me more than to see her sell plenty of books and become a lead author for a publishing house that will promote her books well. For now she has always been an enjoyable author that for a long time remains under the radar for all the wrong reasons. A Lady of Distinction is her second full-length title from Berkley and I really, really want to be able to put out a favorable word for it. Alas, I can barely remember a thing about this book once I’m done with it.
Juliet Cavendish is an Egyptologist, the best among her family of Egyptology scholars actually, but the poor bluestocking is constantly belittled by her father as well as by her peers because of her gender. Normally she wouldn’t care about the injustice too much, given that she finds her research more interesting that the world around her, but it galls her when the man she is attracted to, Morgan Beauchamp, treats her no differently than the men in her acquaintance. Morgan is a notorious treasure-hunter who tries very hard to insist that he’s selling Egyptian artifacts to the highest bidder solely for money. He meets Juliet when he drags in a huge load of artifacts for her father and dismisses her outright as some pampered rich daughter. When her father insists that she help him catalogue the artifacts, both he and Juliet are forced to reevaluate their initial assumptions of each other. Things heat up between them when they work together to investigate matters when the artifacts start to disappear piece by piece and the ancient curse on these artifacts seem to be taking effect.
The story isn’t anything new, as every rare book dealing with Egyptologists that comes out once in a while nearly always have a bluestocking scholarly heroine paired with some roguish, maverick treasure hunter to investigate some mouldy old relic. Morgan and Juliet are familiar characters in that sense. It is up to Ms Simmons to make things interesting by putting her own twist into the characters and the plot. In this case, the mystery isn’t too overwhelming – it’s more like a backdrop to the romance. The characters have a nice dynamic going between them, as Morgan and Juliet clash from their first meet and the sparks that resulted then never fade away even when the characters eventually revise their initial impression of the other person.
Unfortunately, this book reminds me of a soggy half-done cake that is taken out of the oven too soon. Who is Juliet? Who is Morgan? I don’t really know. I don’t know why Juliet is so prim and proper, I don’t know what her problems with her father are exactly (I only know that they don’t get along well), I am not too sure as to why Morgan ends up the cynical adventurer that he is, or why these two have an interest in Egypt. These characters just happen to be there – they just are, and because of the lack of any insight into what makes these characters tick, they remain one-dimensional familiar characters to me. I can never start to care for these underwritten characters. This book is only 311 pages long for a good reason.
A Lady of Distinction is a pleasant read that leaves little impression of me because of the wallpaper characterization. Reading this book is a watered-down Deborah Simmons experience: pleasant, fluffy, but forgettable. You have no idea how much it pains me to admit that to myself. Let’s hope that her next book will hit all the right spots.