Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0457-8
Historical Romance, 2009
I had a good time with Anthea Lawson’s previous historical romance Passionate, but the follow-up All He Desires doesn’t have the same magic as the previous book. One problem here is that, if you ask me one week from now who the hero is, I’d go, “Eh? This story has a hero? Wait, let me try to remember who that bloke is…”
Caroline Huntington, the sister of the hero of the previous book, meets our hero Alex Trentham when she is accompanying a friend to Crete and eventually Malta. In Crete, she breaks her elbow during a riding accident. Alex was a doctor in his past life in England, and it is with some reluctance that he tends to Caroline’s injuries. However, Caroline has to leave and Alex will never leave Crete, so it isn’t meant to be… or is it? Back in London, her cousin Reggie is not pleased that his father is planning to adopt Caroline. If Caroline becomes part of his family, then his share of the inheritance is reduced, you see. He plots to thwart his father’s plan. Caroline meanwhile finds her life in danger, a turn of event that may or may not be related to Reggie’s plans. As for Alex, he’s in the story, moping and whining and wringing his hands… somewhere. I think he’s standing there by that potted plant.
The story takes a very long time to find a decent pace and momentum, and as a result I find the first few chapters of the book far from engaging. But once Caroline consummates her attraction to Alex and especially after she returns to England, she begins to come into her own as a character in her own right. She is understandably oblivious to Reggie’s plot but then again, she has no reason to suspect a thing. She can also take care of herself and is aware of her surroundings and the people around her to a pretty good degree. I like her.
On the other hand, Alex just mopes and mopes in the background for the most part that I have a hard time even remembering that he is in the story, much less caring for him. The heroine breaks her elbow, fends off an unwanted suitor, tries to save the orphans of London and Malta, and avoids attempts on her life… and yet, it is she who also has to soothe Alex’s ego and reassure him that he is not unlovable. That guy is such a big baby here, it is not even funny. Alex is melodramatic too. In the scene below, Caroline wants to know why he won’t return to England with her.
She sat up, pulling the covers about her, vulnerable and naked. “Why?” The word scraped her throat.
“You will never know. Be grateful for it.” His voice was hoarse, filled with old pain. He moved to the door, paused. “Manolis will take you and Pen to Agia Galini tomorrow. Goodbye, Caroline.”
The final nail in the coffin is Alex’s antics in the later part of the story. Running to London to tell Caroline that he wants to marry her, only to learn that she’s not pregnant with his kid like he feared, and then telling her that he will return at once to Crete the next day and she will never see him again? What kind of cruel nonsense is this? If I were Caroline in that scene, he will not leave the house without being smacked so hard, people would think that he has deliberately dipped his head into a hornet’s nest.
Ultimately, the hero is just too much of a big baby for me. Caroline deserves better than this flaccid wet noodle of a fellow. Despite the slow start of the story, All He Desires could have salvaged things if the hero had just stopped acting like he would die from being pricked in the heart.