MIlls & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-92577-7
Historical Romance, 2017
Things don’t seem so bad during the first few chapters of Virginia Heath’s A Warriner to Protect Her. Our Violet Dunston is kidnapped by an evil, old, ugly Earl of Bainbridge, who plots with her uncle to marry her and then kill her, thus inheriting her fortune and splitting it with that evil uncle. Despite being gagged and bound, she manages to break free during her trip to Gretna Green, mostly because the evil old man fell asleep on her. I wonder why these evil villains don’t just stash the bride-to-be away at some cellar and then plan the wedding and ravishment in leisure – I mean, it’s not like there is anyone to come ask for her. Still, I suppose we need a reason to get the heroine to meet her true love, and a contrived trip against her will is as good as any.
She bumps into our drunk hero Jack Warriner. Despite having drunk six mugs of alcohol and feeling woozy because it’s not his habit to get drunk, he takes one look at Violet and, I quote:
Jack’s wits finally overpowered his inebriation and he swiftly directed his horse after her.
Ah, romance novels. If only real life works the same way and it is this easy to regain sobriety.
At any rate, Jack rescues Violet, takes her to his place where we are introduced to his brothers Joe, Jacob, and Jamie – each conveniently fitting a romance hero archetype, so collect them all, y’all – and that’s when things become boring. She lies there, needing protection and understandably fudging her true identity because she isn’t sure whether she can fully trust these men, while thinking that he’s so hot. He talks to his brothers, puffs up his chest as he wants to protect her, and talks about how hot he finds her. She pouts when he gets too protective, because she is an independent woman who doesn’t need that much protection, you know, while he’s like, oh, he’s from an infamous family while she’s a proper lady, so he’ll do that hot and cold thing as both his big and small brains play a tug-of-war game on his ability to make any decision.
That’s basically the story. If you have read any of the many “a group of guys protect our heroine from an evil family relative” stories out there, this one will feel very familiar indeed. I like Violet, as she’s a charming mix of childish petulance (that still comes off as adorable instead of annoying, go figure) and refreshing self-awareness, but the author doesn’t do much with her – in the end, Violet is just another lady in need of rescuing wrapped up in a spunky package. Jack alternates between horny-protective and emo-protective modes. By the time the story enters its late third, both characters are just rehashing the same old song and dance – she wants him, he plays with her, he remembers that she’s not right for him and pushes her away, she feels hurt and rejected, repeat and rinse – and I’m not feeling any excitement here.
Indeed, A Warriner to Protect Her feels too much like a story that I’ve read many times before. It’s perfectly serviceable as some kind of comfort read, but there’s nothing here that stands out to me. It exists, and well, it’s just sort of… there.