Signet, $6.50, ISBN 0-451-20391-7
Historical Romance, 2001
Maybe it’s just my age, but I find it hard to go through heroine Kendra Chase’s juvenile “He loves me, he loves me not…” antics without wanting to gag. She’s twenty-three, but she reminds me of a thirteen-year old who has read Seventeen way too religiously.
Kendra is a heroine who just doesn’t want to marry for anything but love, despite her brothers pushing her to get wed. But one night when they are held up by this highwayman Trick, Kendra is a goner. So gone is she that she takes a horse and goes riding the next day – alone – to find this highwayman. She even protests when her brothers tease her about bringing the highwayman to justice – he’s a good man, she is sure, and apparently more importantly to her, he sounds too classy to be anything but a nobleman so he must not be reported to the law. Say what? Then again, this is a 23-year old woman who rides alone to seek out a highwayman, so I’ll at least commend the author for character consistency.
Rain falls, thunder crashes, lightning flashes, and she and the highwayman Trick are trapped in a hut together. Compromised, she is forced to marry Trick, which is a decision she’s semi-okay with. After all, he’s a highwayman… wow. Then she realizes that Trick is actually Patrick Iain Caldwell, the Duke of Amberley (please don’t ask – it’s a long story), and she shrieks in horror. She has been lied to!
Thankfully, this story is pretty much devoid of big misunderstandings – that’s good. Trick/Patrick and Kendra actually T-A-L-K, although mostly it’s he talking some common sense into her. Like how she foolishly dashes headlong to help (haha) him in some highwayman stint. Like how she thinks she can’t love him because never mind that she is attracted to him and he her (she thinks) because while she wants to marry for love, she can’t marry a titled man because… er, I don’t know, titled means no love? Read her reasoning for yourself and make up your own conclusions, because I’m confused. My thoughts are in italics (like this).
“I won’t pretend I don’t enjoy balls and pretty clothes and the other things money can buy as much as the next woman. (Okay.) But I think I know what’s important underneath all the trappings. (Nice.) I told my brothers again and again that I care not about titles. I wanted to marry a man I was wildly in love with, but even more, one I could admire. (But you think the highwayman shouldn’t be reported because he’s most likely a noble, and you are charmed with his flair enough to go riding alone to seek him out for – whatever. You think a farmer will have flair?) For who he was, not a false honor that society had settled upon him. (What does that have to do with titles?)
“During the Commonwealth, my family’s title was useless. We were exiled paupers, dragged from Paris, to Cologne, to Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp – wherever King Charles and his court wandered. (Ah yes, the pain of being a noble lady. Wanna be a farmer’s wife, Kendra?) And ’twas I learned ’tis what’s inside a person that counts. (Really? How?) Some people were kind to us, and some were not. And their rank had nothing to do with it. (Oh please – if you’re a farmer’s wife, or a highwayman’s wife, you think the courtiers will even bother to be nice to you? Grow up.)
“Oh, I knew this would be impossible to explain. (You’re right. Maybe after you start behaving like a 23 year old woman, you’ll find it easier?) ‘Tis not the title itself that sets my teeth on edge, but what it symbolizes. (So much for what’s inside that counts, huh.) To me. (I guess that’s what the world is all about, right, Kendra?) To the world in general. (So I’m right in the last statement I made.) All the good people who weren’t lucky enough – (… to enjoy balls and pretty dresses?)“
I give up. And she goes on like this all the time, making childish statements of pure, idealistic love even as her behavior contradicts everything she says. Trick is a better person who actually behaves like an adult, if you can call highwayman antics adult.
But like I said, at least Kendra talks to Trick, you know? And that’s a good thing, because the last thing I need are headaches.
Towards the last three or four chapters, only then did the author puts in matters like responsibilities, duties, and sacrifices, and only then did I perk up and start reading with more attention. Alas, the story ends soon and I feel exasperated all over again. I think Amber with its heroine’s daisy-plucking “He loves me… he loves me not…” antics is best left for those who still find first-bloom childhood infatuation an experience to relive again and again.