Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-82079-X
Historical Romance, 2002
An Affair to Remember has Karen Hawkins displaying unexpected depths when it comes to characterization. Anna Thraxton and Anthony Elliot are actually characters with depths and chemistry. Unfortunately, the author sticks them into a very familiar supernanny plot.
Oh, and I’m not too sure, but readers not familiar with this author’s previous books may feel as if they have stumbled upon a party of strangers in the first few chapters.
Anthony Elliot is an interesting guy. The Elliots are well-known for being, well, bad, and Anthony has inherited some urges to be bad, eugenics romance-novel style. On the other hand he is raised as one of the dutiful St Johns. Hence Anthony spends his time putting the matters of his family in order even as he longs to be a little bit badder than he is at times. His troubles start when he inherits a batch of hellion kids from his late cousin.
He hires Anna Thraxton at an unheard of sum (if you’ve read The Seduction of Sara, you will know that these two aren’t exactly bosom drinking buddies) and moves her to his place. Then I cringe as Anna turns on the very modern parenting psychology act. Does Ms Hawkins have kids? Maybe we ought to sit down sometime and she can teach me how exactly she can seem to believe that “understanding and psychoanalyzing” these “they’re not misbehaving, just misunderstood and in need of a few hugsies” kids will really make them behave. The last time I tried that, I almost burst a blood vessel in my head. Come on, Ms Hawkins, don’t be shy. Tell me your secrets.
Anna is an interesting heroine. She’s prim and proper, yes, but she longs to wear dresses and shoes that are branded and fashionable. She’s smart too, if I overlook the necessary Granddaddy-forever thing, and she and Anthony make combustible chemistry that will make Lavoisier proud.
But for too much of the time, the story focuses on Anna’s unbearably perky kiddie-nanny-extraordinaire act. How many nannies do you that ask the employer, no, expect the employer to renovate his house to make the kids happier? Anna knows psychology, she knows that kids are just in need of attention and all they need is hugs, not scolding. When kids pull at your hair and set your skirts on fire, just smile and give them a bear hug, and pray that they don’t do a Ted Bundy when they grow up. Put in Anna’s matchmaking grandfather creature and this story sinks into an unbearably trite story of insanely perky matchmakers and nannies and unbearably obnoxious “misunderstood” kiddies driving me up the wall.
On their own, in their own quiet moments, Anna and Anthony are a wonderful couple, and their bickering/romantic banters are quite lovely to read. But these moments are just not present enough. For too long, Ms Hawkins add in those irritating overused plot devices like “cute” kids and “cute old men”, plot devices that are no longer cute after they were used the millionth time in, like, 1992. If anything, the too-few quiet moments in An Affair to Remember prove that Ms Hawkins are indeed capable of effective romantic moments as much as slapstick or verbal comedy.
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