Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21423-4
Historical Romance, 2005
I think, I hope, there’s a plot in this story, but that plot is buried under self-indulgent greatness-of-the-Malloren propaganda. Perhaps there is a reason why the main characters can’t get married in two pages and be done with the story, but again, all I get are two characters whining that they just cannot be the suitable spouse for the other person. This book is filled with some of the most tedious and often insipid clichés I make fun of in my soapbox. I know this book is set in the Georgian era, but Georgian Meorgian – the clichés are the same no matter what the period is.
Reading this book gives me a revelation. Stephanie Laurens is going to be a so much better author than Jo Beverley if Ms Beverley keeps up with this flimsy excuse of a story. The similarities between Ms Laurens’ Cynsters and Ms Beverley’s Mallorens are there: men who think they know what is best for everybody and stupid women who have sex with these men while whining that they will not marry these men in books that encompasses huge clans and friends. What makes Ms Laurens currently ahead of Ms Beverley is simple. One, Ms Laurens spice up with her books with love scenes. Ms Beverley chooses instead to come up with a book that is slower than a snail.
This book kicks off by sending the reader straight in the middle of a party that takes place immediately after Winter Fire. Readers new to the author may want to read that book before picking up A Most Unsuitable Man. Our heroine Damaris Myddleton has inherited lots of money (although she is still technically poor because her dire guardian controls the money) and all she wants is to marry into a title. However, because we can’t have a heroine who shows even a little shred of mercenery intentions, Damaris also has this lovely little drama where she deems herself a pirate’s daughter so oh no, when Lord Ashart chooses to marry Genova Smith instead of her, it’s back to the “I’m such an inferior creature, boo-hoo” time. She has also been nearly duped by a man in her past. Lucky for her, Ashart’s good buddy Octavius Fitzroger is there to provide some rebound TLC. That is, if he can actually get over thinking that because he is penniless, he is not good enough for her.
This is the major conflict that keep Damaris and Fitz apart even when their lips and fingers sometimes don’t stay apart. And frankly, this is a tedious conflict because Ms Beverley introduces transparent contrivances to keep these two whining about their OH-WE’RE-NOT-WORTHY blues instead of talking to each other about these insecurities of theirs.
Along the way, these two characters are in a sea of plots that rarely serve a purpose other than to make happy fans of the Malloren clan, especially those who can’t get enough of Rothgar. For the first quarter of the book, everyone is planning to go on a trip to keep Ashart, Damaris, and Genova safe. Safe from what? Ah, that sneaky Ms Beverley decides that she simply cannot let the reader know anything other than this villain is an assassin. Fitz doesn’t know who he is trying to protect these people from. Rothgar knows but he is not telling. What can I say? Best suspense plot ever! And slowly, the scenes unfold. The men may say that their women are strong and intelligent, but these women are herded from point A to point B like a bunch of cows. Lots of discussions of intrigue between Rothgar and Fitz, which boils down to something like this: “I can’t tell you but you must save these people from a villain that I can’t explain more because I will be… um, doing other things, which is why you have to stay close to Damaris always! Oh, and make sure that you flirt with her so that people will think that she’s not too torn up over losing Ashart. What? Why that face? Mensch, don’t you know who I am? I AM ROTHGAR, the MIGHTIEST MAN OF THE UNIVERSE so shut yo mouth, mensch! I AM ROTHGAR AND I AM ABOVE PLOT CONTRIVANCES AND DUD STEREOTYPICAL PLOT TWISTS BECAUSE I – AM – ROTHGAR!”
I don’t know, really. Much has been said about Ms Beverley’s supposed exquisite skill in characterization and plot but A Most Unsuitable Man is a flimsy story with underdeveloped conflicts, tedious martyr blues, and an ensemble cast of secondary characters who are interchangeable because they are uniformly perfect. Rothgar is pretty much an omnipotent demigod in this book because he seems to see, know, and hear freaking everything. Everyone else in this book is merely happy pawns on his chessboard. The only character that I find memorable is the dowager, Ashart’s mother. In another book, her nastiness will make her a typical caricature of a mother-in-law from hell, but in this book where every man and woman seem to be luminously perfect, she is the only one that doesn’t bore me witless.
At least Stephanie Laurens’ characters so far have never pulled that “I’m not worthy of you for the most ridiculous of reasons” stunt on me.