Zebra, $6.50, ISBN 0-8217-7416-6
Historical Romance, 2003
I have often received emails from readers saying that I don’t know anything about those Regency days. According to these readers, heroines are supposed to be selfless, ever faithful, ever forever giving and giving even as they blame themselves for everything at the drop of the hat, and when at the first sign of the hero showing any dismay at them, immediately leap to the conclusion that they are wretched and unworthy forever, run away to die alone, but that’s after one last shag with the hero so that they can have the memory to cherish until the day they die. Any other kind of heroine is a historical anachronism and the authors of these stories are history dropouts that aren’t worthy to kiss the mighty Georgette Heyer’s toes. Well, okay, if they say so. They are the experts, after all, on Regency times. Who am I to disagree? To these readers, fly, don’t walk, fly, people, to purchase a copy of Jo Goodman’s All I Ever Needed now.
Sophia Colley has spent the last few months taking care of her father that has run through the family fortunes. Naturally, she blames herself for everything that goes wrong in her life. Her cousin wants her to marry into money to repair the family fortunes. Naturally, she cannot inflict herself on any man because she knows she will make that man miserable forever! She doesn’t even try to change her luck, mind you. She just sits there, eyes down, lips trembling, waiting for the hero Gabriel Whitney, the Marquess of Eastlyn (hence his nickname “East”), to propose so that she can open her mouth and sing that “I’m a Horrible Woman – Don’t Marry Me – Let Me Die – I Deserve It!” opera blues. It takes them around 150 pages, give or take a few dozen pages where both characters try to upstage each other in being unworthy, guilt-ridden, horrible, and more, to come to an agreement to marry.
Only then, the story starts moving on a snail’s pace towards somewhere and the whole self-pity nonsense slowly decreases. Thank goodness. But then up crops another problem: the writing. I’ll just provide one example, this is when Sophia tries to tell East that she is a selfish woman because she does not trade her “happy” life of being henpecked into feeling guilty and depressed by her relatives (all these relatives have to do is to utter the magic D word and she’ll immediately goes into guilt-induced hysteria) to marry him despite the fact that marrying him will give her the satisfaction of proving him wrong: she will make his life miserable. The fact that she takes pleasure in being a martyr is bad enough, but when she speaks, ugh.
“I should say yes, you know, not to this last question, but to your proposal. It would go a very long way to proving how wrong you are. It is my opinion, however, that that sort of lesson has import for me as well. I find I am selfish enough not to trade the prospect of my own happiness for the certainty of ruining yours. You surely have acquitted yourself admirably today, making your proposal when you could not be certain of my answer. It was wrong of me to tease you with the anticipation of my acceptance when I knew you hoped for precisely the wrong outcome, and while I acknowledge the wrongness of it, never think I regret it. You deserved it, my lord, for placing your need to discharge yourself honorably above my express wish that no proposal be offered.”
Say what? My eyes get crossed up while reading that passage.
The heroine has no sense of humor or even self esteem and there is one point in the book where the hero tells her he loves her and she just sighs miserably. East is a remarkably patient man to indulge his wife in her relentless nonsense and he must be commended in that, even if this makes him a moron.
Well, what more can I say? Fans that love these sort of heroines that must be dragged screaming into a happily ever after, have fun. Reading this overly verbose humorless story that stars a heroine that suffers from megalomaniac martyr complex only makes my head spin. I see East, I see West, I see North, I see South, that sort thing. Speaking of which, I hope West manages to find himself a happy girlfriend, even if these sort of women are always in short supply in Jo Goodman’s Regency England.