by Carolyn Jewel, historical (2012)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-25097-6
Grenville Foxman Talbot or Fox, the Marquess of Fenris, is truly, madly, deeply in love with Eugenia Bryant. The thing is, once upon a time, his close friend Robert fell in love with Eugenia, then a nobody from the countryside, and Fenris made it very clear that he believed that Robert deserved someone of a loftier pedigree, let's just say. When Robert married Eugenia, the incident caused a permanent estrangement between the two men. Fenris didn't help matters by helping to turn Eugenia into a laughingstock of sorts before the rest of the Ton. Over time, Fenris realizes that he has harshly misjudged his friend and Eugenia - Robert, a cripple, thrived with Eugenia's affections, they were both genuinely happy, and when Robert passed away, Eugenia was truly crushed.
Today, Eugenia is in town to act as Lady Hester Rendell's chaperone in the young lady's debut appearance. Meanwhile. Fenris has a most unusual dream one fine day. The dream starts out with him having enjoyable sexual congress with Eugenia, but it soon morphs into an encounter with Robert, who gives Fenris his blessings to try and make Eugenia happy again. Fenris takes this as a sign that he can try to start anew with Eugenia and, this time, turn their story into a happier one.
And that's pretty much the story. Not Proper Enough is a quaintly back-to-basics type of story, with the focus solely on the romance. No spies, no fireworks, no murder, no vampires or angels or demons - just plain romance.
And there are some good things about this one. Eugenia truly loves Robert, and she also misses the intimacies of the marriage bed, which she actually enjoyed. Her marriage to Robert was, unlike many typical previous marriages in romance novels, actually great. Also, I really like how Eugenia views love. She loves Robert like no other, but that doesn't mean she won't consider falling in love again. As she puts in, every man is different, and therefore, she may one day love another man, perhaps as much as, but in a different way than, she loves Robert. Isn't this a nice change from the way the poor dead husband is typically deemed wanting compared to the current romance hero?
Unfortunately, this romance is so horribly, excruciatingly slow that I actually fell asleep four times while trying to read this book. At one point, the book slipped from my hands and, when I woke up, I realized that I'd lost the page where I last stopped. I believed it was page 176, but it's hard to be sure. This is because Eugenia and Fenris pretty much have the same bloody conversation over and over again. He will woo her, she will put up plenty of resistance, there will be some sex scene as the "courtship" progresses, she will have the romance heroine version of buyer's remorse come morning, and the whole cycle repeats for what seems like almost the entire book.
Fine, I understand that Fenris was pretty mean to her once upon a time. But Eugenia keeps saying that she's over that. She also claims pretty earlier that she's open to falling in love again. So what is stopping her and Fenris from going beyond a quick shag? I have no idea, but Eugenia's reason seems to be mostly about how she can't keep having sex with Fenris because she doesn't love him. I guess that's a fair reason, but the thing is: she's already having sex with him. So what gives? If she can't stand the idea of being with him, she could have just stopped while the going is good, but no, she has to keep stringing the poor guy along.
And poor Fenris, flattery doesn't work on Eugenia, neither do flowers or pretty trinkets. By the late third of the book, the poor guy is practically Eugenia's sex toy, to be used and then tossed aside in shame come morning. He's a far more patient man than I give him credit for, because Eugenia treats him pretty poorly in this book. While there's some novelty to be had at seeing the hero being the one stringed along and treated like a sex object for once, I end up feeling bad for the guy. Isn't there some other nice lady who will not require the complete obliteration of his pride before she deigns to marry him?
The secondary romance is far more interesting, and I'd rather read about that one than the slow circular sleeping pill that is the romance between Fenris and Eugenia.
Not Proper Enough is, at the end of the day, just not interesting enough.
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