Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29152-3
Historical Romance, 2001
Is it me or the rather boyish, anemic-looking young man at the cover is rather happy to see me? Just what I need to make my day, really. Gayle Wilson’s second installment in her The Sinclair Brides series, Anne’s Perfect Husband, is a bit off though.
It has a wonderfully noble hero, Ian Sinclair, who walks with a limp (we all know hero’s limpness is always a symptom of mental torture from oh – that horrible, horrible Napoleon war!). It also has a heroine, Anne Darlington, whose la-la-li nature of charity, maternity, and honesty (“Death before lying, death before breaking a promise to dear old ladies!”) makes the whole love story more akin to a man’s bonding with his cute terrier pup.
Ian is walking wounded thanks to Daddy Darlington’s bad, cowardly nature. Wanting nothing more than to stalk around his house in misery, he is nonetheless surprised when Bastard Daddy Darlington names him the guardian of Annie Darlington. Still, honor compels him to bring her back to London and give her a Season. But poor Ian, he never considers falling for Annie himself.
Poor, poor Ian. Noble, kind, yet so, so miserable – come over and let me cheer you up. I have a weakness for these sort of heroes, dark and haunted yet never afraid to embrace love, really.
But while Ian is realistically noble, Anne Darlington is noble, noble, noble, and nothing else. Merry Cardboard Sunshine has hijacked this story. Of course, she is born and bred in a boarding school, but I wish the author has taken time to tamper Anne’s annoyingly naïve, upbeat, and “feminine” nature with some normal human instincts. For instance, Ian frets and seethes in jealousy over her “flirtation” with a handsome rake. I can’t help but to wish if Anne has at least displayed some attraction to him – after all, it is natural for heterosexual women to be sexually attracted to handsome men, right? It will make Anne more human in my eyes. But no. How could she? Anne Sunshine has her eyes fixed on Mr Sinclair. He’s her champion. One look and it’s la-la land for Anne Darlington. She walks around the story, clueless, stars in her eyes as she tells Ian how she loves babies and love and charity and helping old ladies across the streets and honoring vows and promises no matter what… give me a break. It is one thing to be a model of virtue, but if Ian can be noble and has flaws, why not Anne?
So the story moves down the predictable path. La la la la la, there is a castle on the clouds, Anne goes there when she sleeps… la la la la la, here in her castle on the clouds. Anne gets new dresses (“Oh, no – too expensive!”), Anne wonders why Ian turns away from her puppy adoration and loyalty (“La, la, la, la, la… castle in the cloud…”), the other man that sniffs around Anne and makes Ian jealous turns out to be… well, not a typical caricature of a bad guy, for which I give Ms Wilson two thumbs up for. Which only makes me wonder: if this author can take time to make a secondary Other Man (admitted who never has any chances to begin with) human, why not Anne? Anne acting “spunky” in the usual Regency miss manner: it’s all so predictable and it seems a waste too.
There are some moments that sing, and these are the moments when Ian broods in silent melancholy. He saves this story, really. I can only wish he has gotten a better story, one where the heroine is at least two-dimensional with some emotional baggage of her own. Not this happy, trippy, giddy Ms Anne “Charity, Maternity, and Purity” Darlington. Egad, she really reminds me of a happy, clumsy pup. Not that there’s anything wrong with puppies – I love puppies – but still… well, you know what I mean, right?