Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-051763-8
Historical Romance, 2004
It seems that more and more authors are stringing clichés together instead of coming up with plots that make sense when it comes to their books. Victoria Alexander’s A Visit from Sir Nicholas is one of the many recent historical romances I’ve read that has a plot filled with premises that don’t make sense. I’m not talking about a huge plot hole, I’m talking about a plot that is barely held by its seams by formulaic conflicts and typical behavior-cum-psychology in a way that nothing makes sense at all. The only thing that comes close to brilliance is the title of this book which is created to coincide with the book’s release in the month of December.
The plot, if I can call it that, is like this: Elizabeth Effington loves Nicholas Collingsworth with all her nineteen-year old heart can allow her to love. Alas, everyone, including Nicholas, agrees that Lizzie is better off married to Nicholas’s sensible, stable best friend Charles so he deliberately hurts her to drive her away. That’s the friendly neighborhood chorus of alley cats singing along to the broken record: “It’s all fo-ooo-ooo-or her own go-ooo-ooo-od!” Lizzie marries Charles and pretends that her heart is not broken.
Charles is a nice man so he’s one of those thankless characters who get no love from the heroine. He doesn’t mistreat her, he is nice to her, he is by all accounts a decent husband, but Lizzie doesn’t feel anything for Charles the way she feels for Nicholas. You remember Nicholas, don’t you? The man that broke the congenital masochist Lizzie’s heart? Charles, in a move straight out of that Greek tragedy classic tome Contrivances Illogicus, puts out a will declaring that Lizzie’s money (and therefore her life) will be controlled by Nicholas and then conveniently dies.
So now Nicholas is back. He is rich, powerful, rich, rakish enough to send women into states of multiple orgasms with a flick of his finger (or so it seems), rich, hot, rich, egalitarian (Nicholas, like all those rejected and betrayed and wounded British heroes, went to America where money grew on trees for these displaced English lads), and did I mention rich? But lo, Nicholas declares that there is nothing he can give Lizzie to make her a happy woman so he must never tell her his true feelings about her! Or wait, he wants her! He loves her! He wants to make her his wife! Nicholas’ feelings regarding Lizzie changes according to the author’s need for contrived conflicts to keep the story to its stipulated length.
So – for now – Nicholas decides that he loves her and he wants to marry her. How can he get her to love him back? Roses? Diamonds? Pearls? Get out of here, everyone knows that heroes give trinkets to their harlot mistresses, go read six Avon romances a day and repent. No, Nicholas of course does the sensible thing: he closes Lizzie’s credits and makes her entirely dependent on his charity! I tell you, I spontaneously ovulate at the thought of being at the receiving end of such ravishingly romantic courtship. Wait, it gets better: Lizzie offers to become his mistress if she is allowed to remain in control of her expenses. And it even gets better: Nicholas pretends to agree, sleeps with her, and then denies her her financial independence anyway!
All these conflicts don’t make sense considering that I’m supposed to believe that Nicholas is in love with her. Which sane man would do such a thing, expecting the woman he is treating this way to fall in love with him? These conflicts, however, make sense if they exist only to allow Ms Alexander to keep her characters bickering, arguing, and playing really stupid and unnecessarily convoluted mind games with each other. It is not that Lizzie is a sympathetic victim either – what Nicholas gives in huge doses of dumb, she has no problems in giving back just as much. Their “humorous banters” are mostly childish bickering over conflicts that need not happen if the both of them have any shred of brainpower to share between them. Throughout it all, I am supposed to believe that Lizzie’s love shines brightly as always for Nicholas because he is so sexy. Who cares how he is treating her, he is hot and she loves him!
The story plunges into familiar territory – the ridiculous holding back of heart for the declaration of love even as the body has long succumbed to lust, inconvenient and definitely irrational “epiphanies” to hold back the heart further – as if the story isn’t boggled down with enough irrational moments already.
Books like this one make me wonder even whether these authors are even writing anymore or they are just filling in the blanks of a template worksheet the editor gives them. A Visit from Sir Nicholas is a shockingly shoddily plotted book that will placate only readers that determine how good a book is by comparing the book to a checklist of formulaic plot and character elements that the book is supposed to adhere to. I mean, come on! Just look at the whole premise of the story! It seems like a parody of a romance novel plot. Unfortunately, this book isn’t a parody so it really has no excuse for itself, has it?