Signet Eclipse, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-23958-7
Historical Romance, 2013
As much as I applaud authors who wish to take risks in their romance novels, these risks must, at the very least, make sense. Emma Wildes seems to be trying something new here, but the end result is unsatisfying, half-baked, and dull.
Lady Angelina DeBrooke is beautiful. She is, in fact, very beautiful. So beautiful, actually, that the author reminds me of this every other page, just in case I forget even for a minute that Angelina is the most beauteous beauty that ever beautified the world with her bounteous beauty. Oh, and Benjamin Wallace, Lord Heathton, is so remarkably handsome, he’s the most handsome man ever. Or maybe Christopher Durham, Baron Lowe, is more handsome?
Oh, A Most Improper Rumor is not a ménage à trois story. Angeline asks the help of Ben, who last showed up in Ruined by Moonlight as the guy who fell in love with his wife after they were married, to look into a mystery that has plagued her existence and caused her to become a social pariah. You see, Angelina had been married twice, and both her husbands died under suspicious circumstances. In fact, she was dragged to court after the death of her second husband, and the case was dismissed only because there was no strong evidence to implicate her in the man’s death. The gossips persist, though, and Angelina is now practically the pariah of the Ton for her black widow reputation. Still, she has found a lover in Christopher, whom she has fallen in love with, and she wants Ben’s help.
While she played no role in her husbands’ deaths, she has her suspicions that foul play was involved, and now she is worried that Christopher may meet the same fate that befell her husbands. Ben is skeptical at first, but his investigations soon suggest that the villain involved may be the same guy that played the villain in Ruined by Moonlight. Things are complicated by the fact that this villain is assisted by lesser villains, so it may take a while to track down this villain.
While all this may sound interesting on paper, the story is actually pretty dull. The romance is dry and uninteresting, as Angelina and Christopher are basically two anatomically correct beautiful dolls that spend a lot of time copulating or admiring one another in secret (they don’t want people to know of their relationship yet). There is no discernible character arc or story progression here as they are waiting for Ben to come back with the results. Ben and his wife are already on the wedded and pregnant trail, so there is nothing worth noting there as well. The wife is occasionally jealous because Benedict spends a lot of time with Angelina and they are so beautiful together, but this is just a minor conflict.
Things won’t be so sleep-inducing if the mystery was interesting, but it isn’t. The whole thing is pretty far-fetched in the first place, and it is treated with a misplaced sense of gravity that accentuates the far-fetched nature of the plot to a ridiculous degree. The investigative procedure is boring, and the main characters doing the investigating are just are boring. The denouement is a limp noodle as well.
I have no issues if the author wanted to write a historical investigative tale, but let’s not pass it off as a romance novel or make it more like a sleeping pill than anything else.