Sonnet, $6.50, ISBN 0-671-77525-1
Historical Romance, 2000
A Merry Chase features a battle of wits between Royce Van Cleef, the Earl of Tewksbury, and Lady Laurel Simmons, the daughter of the Earl of Sewley. Royce wagers his buddies that the best way to catch an adoring girlfriend – and wife – is to treat the whole thing like a fox hunt. Learn her weaknesses and zone in and – wham! His buddies bet that his techniques wouldn’t work on the cool, unattainable Laurel, and naturally our hero accepts the wager. It’s time he get married and start a nursery anyway.
Laurel has been hurt by a bad ex before, and is wary about Royce, but she succumbs to the smoothie’s charms like ice cream under hot sun. Until she learns of the wager, that is.
Now, make no mistake, this one has some fun moments. Laurel and Royce indulge in some witty chuckle-inducing repartees. But let’s face it – the battle lines are drawn and set since page one. The author let it clear from early on that there is no doubt who will be the victor – Royce. Laurel is too soft-hearted, willing to swallow everything Royce tells her, and she is at least two steps behind Royce all the time. It’s just a matter of when she would succumb. Much of the thrill of anticipation is gone the moment Royce lets me know that he has the upper hand.
Then the story is absolutely ruined by the presence of three cardboard villains who oppose our two lovebirds’ marriage for the usual reasons. The psychotic momma-in-law, the money-mad other man, and the man-hungry other woman all conspire to destroy one or the other of our two lead characters in all ways ludicrous and predictable. These villains have much substance as the rumor that I am actually Jennifer Lopez’s body double, and as fun as watching her trying to croak out a song.
The increasingly feverish pitch of overwrought melodrama increases when all three graduates of the Wile E Coyote College of Tomfoolery combine forces. Poor Laurel and Royce, they really do deserve a story with an external plot that isn’t mired in such trite, overused contrivances. As it is, A Merry Chase isn’t a bad read – it has its moments – but it doesn’t stand out either.