The Charmer
by Madeline Hunter, historical (2003)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58591-6

A clichéd setting seems to bring out the worst in Madeline Hunter. The Charmer, like the two previous books in the author's contribution to Bantam's Get Connected - Buy Everything! series, has the same hero, same heroine, same plot. This one is another book where the cold-hearted killjoy hero goes off to drag an orphan heroine that has no one to protect her back to his lair, upon which he initiates a seduction for less-than-straightforward reasons, and the heroine is the same old ninny type whose loving the hero stems from a mental or intellectual defect on her part.

Sophia Raughley is now a duchess after her estranged father's death. Thanks to some political finagling in her family, she is now the Duchess of Everdon and has some political power over her late father's holdings. This is why Adrian Buchard is here to drag her back to England from her hidey-hole in France - she will elect a few MPs to represent the seats in Everdon, and Adrian is charged to ensure that she elects the right MPs to swing the power in the Parliament for the Tories. She doesn't want to go back, no, maybe she does, nyah nyah nyah - Sophia's characterization is inconsistent in that she doesn't know what she wants to do and what she does, she does for dubious reasons. She speaks and pulls a stubborn act when it's inconvenient to do so but when it's convenient to do so, instead she goes and pulls that silent martyr act. This woman is a total nitwit from the first chapter when she gets drunk and Adrian saves her from being taken advantage of by her companion without her realizing it.

Adrian is yet another cold-hearted hero embarking on a seduction to get her back to England and in doing so further his own political position, only to fall for her, blah blah blah, been there, done that. Maybe part of the reason he falls for her is because someone is out to get her, I don't know. The only reason why Adrian can fall for her is because he wants to play Daddy to this immature little girl, I think.

Seriously, Madeline Hunter has been there and done that so many times, The Charmer is such an overkill. It is a really bad move to put out this book back-to-back to books that have the same variations in hero and heroine, just pick and choose a different historical context to pop these characters in. In the case of The Charmer, the author is struggling to keep the pacing going because there is no real sense of urgency or conflict in this story. Just the same old tale of a heroine trying to run away from going with the hero and getting into more troubles as a result. Sophia's self-centered and often immature concerns and priorities is so jarring when compared to Adrian's more significant and long-running concerns that there is a wide gulf in mental capabilities between those two characters.

I hope things improve in the next book, and the author can start by not having another hero having to seduce a dingbat that is entirely dependent on his good mercy. I've been told that this author is not mass-manufacturing her books and some of these books are written before Bantam came up with the series. Unfortunately, the results seem to suggest that the author is indeed affected by the rate at which her books are churned out. The previous book in the series, The Saint, is the worst book I've ever read by the author and The Charmer is just a minor improvement over it.

If having to send the author to the bestseller lists by hook or by crook will stop this industry-demand generated rot in the quality of Ms Hunter's books, yes, by all means, people, go buy a copy of this book. If you don't like it, you can always use the book as a coaster. Just stop, please, Ms Hunter. Maybe it's time to ask Gaelen Foley on how she got Ivy to stop making her write books to be published back to back.

Rating: 65

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