Love With A Scandalous Lord
by Lorraine Heath, historical (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81743-8

It's been four years since Lorraine Heath walked into that AutoTemplate Pulverizer KACHINGKACHING344-X machine at the basement of the Avon building, and it's still hard for me to accept that the author who wrote all those lovely heartbreakingly powerful Western romances is probably no more. You'd think that after poor Ms Heath has sold her soul to Avon and starts writing crappy Regency-era historicals to appease the economic pressure they are heaping on her, the least Avon can do is to promote her back to Superleader. Or at least stick some nice non-clinch flowers-and-sheets thing at the front cover.

This story sees American Lydia Westland, stepdaughter of a now completely retconned Grayson Rhodes (A Rogue In Texas), heading off to London. Papa is going to visit Sick Granpa, and Lydia encounters Uncle Rhys Rhodes, and it's love. Yup, uncle and step-niece in love. Anyone knows of any good Texan hillbilly family jokes? Rhys, however, has a lot of issues that he doesn't hesitate to let anybody know - loudly and incessantly. This man makes a career out of being a professional whiner, using dramatic but empty phrases like "I'm in hell" without actually doing anything useful like building a ladder to get over himself. He wears his so-called Byron-esque torment like some garish albatross, constantly piping and whining about how he is bad and nasty blah blah blah all the while also whining about how he wants love but can never deserve love yadda yadda yadda. Most of his Grand Torment is actually of his own doing - by being in love so much with this idea that he is Hurt Forever, he actually becomes more resolute in being miserable so that he can trumpet his misery to the world.

Needless to say, I find Rhys more of a high-maintenance whiny baby as opposed to being a seductive tortured hero.

As for Lydia, ah, she's innocent, lovely, pure, blah blah blah - all the merry clichés of Americans in London in one svelte package. She knows What True Love Is, apparently, so she spends her entire time in this book Teaching Boorish English People the meaning of life or something. Unfortunately, she doesn't know the secret to not being a tired cliché.

As for the others, well, when they are villainous, they all but sprout Hitler-style facial hair. The author seems to fear that if she doesn't increase the villains' over-the-top qualities to grotesquely overblown proportions, I may blink and confuse the Evil Mother, Nasty Other Women, and Dead Evil Brother for some peace-loving Kumbayah dudes and dudettes to share the crack pipe with.

Oh, and Rhys' tortures? So not his fault. It's the Dead Brother's fault. And the Evil Momma's fault. And the author's fault, because Ms Heath prefers to use cheap and easy resolutions to close her formulaic characters' tired and uninspired romance-formula emotional baggages.

Is there a point to this? Ms Heath, come on. They want you to write light, you wrote light. Then they demote you from Superleader because they want you to write what sells (read: not Westerns, the subgenre where this author makes a name for herself in the first place). Then you write what sells, only to realize that well, you're still not selling enough. Why keep dancing to the unforgiving piper's tune? Go write some good Westerns, if that's what you're amazing at doing. Let's just hope that one day when people talk about the casualties of throwing creativity aside in favor of trying too hard to churn out "bestseller" books, the name they use as a textbook example will not be Lorraine Heath. She deserves better. We readers deserve better.

Rating: 56

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