Almost Perfect
by Denise Hampton, historical (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-050911-2

Books like Almost Perfect make me marvel at the seemingly endless capacity for love romance heroines tend to have for their fathers, even when said father is a compulsive and inept gambler that wagers the heroine's teenage sister's virginity and loses the wager. And this wager is what Roland Conningsby did, and our heroine Cassie Marsten has to hit the guy Lord Bucksden in the head. And thinking that she has killed him, she and the rest of the family flee to a house party in Scotland where she hopes to win enough money (she's a skilled card player) to buy her family a trip to America. Of course, she just has to drop the invitation card by Bucksden's comatose body and no, he's not dead.

At the party is our hero Lucien Hollier, whom Cassie has a thing for six years ago, until he rightfully decides that having Roland as a father-in-law is unthinkable and sets Cassie free. Lucien needs an heir to his Barony. His late wife bore him a child that isn't his, it's - yup, you guessed it, Bucksden's. No, the author doesn't explain how a cartoon villain like Bucksden can attract the attention of any sane woman.

One thing that struck me while reading this book is how awkwardly paced it is. Things are so slow for the most part of the book that it's really hard to maintain my enthusiasm in this story. Cassie and Lucien are generally likable characters, it's just too bad that they are very tired stereotypes. For the villains, we have Bucksden who is so over-the-top bad and then there's Roland, a guy so pathetic that I'm surprised Cassie doesn't smother him with a pillow after all the nonsense he has inflicted on her and her family. Almost Perfect therefore has two strikes against it: its pace is lethargically slow in the early first half of the book and the last few chapters, and its characters and plots are too familiar to sustain my interest where the pacing makes it hard for me to do so. It's not a bad book, but it's also a very uninteresting one.

Which is a pity, as this book is Denise Hampton's last book for Avon (Avon is "letting her go") and she indicates on her website that she's not sure what she wants to do next or whether she even wants to keep writing romances. I've enjoyed this author's books under the Denise Domning name but her Denise Hampton books just haven't the same spark as the Denise Domning books. I wish the author luck in whatever she chooses to do next, but I wish I could have said that Almost Perfect is her perfect swan song. I really wish I could, but I just can't, much to my regret.

Rating: 65

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