Mostly Married
by Lisa Manuel, historical (2004)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7647-9

Is Lisa Manuel a new writer? I'm impressed with her distinctive and lyrical way with words and her strong sense of description. Mostly Married is my first book from this author, and while I am struck by the author's style, I'm not sure about the premise of the story. Both the main characters indulge in unnecessary deceptions and convoluted reasonings while failing to see and do the obvious to the point that it is very easy to lose patience with them.

Picture this scenario: a year ago, Charity Martin falls in love with and eventually marries Luke, an amnesiac man her family pulled from the sea. She is carrying his child when he wakes up one morning and gapes at the woman scolding him. Who is she? How did he end up in this region of Scotland? He remembers that he's Lucas Holbrook, a duke, and he has no recollection of being Luke Martin or marrying this Charity woman. He does remember that he has a fiancée named Helena. So in the end, it's back to England he goes.

Charity makes it easy for him by not telling him that she's carrying his child. Instead, she goes after him, even pretending to be his neighbor Miss Charity Williams so that she can hopefully make him remember what they had and get him back. Good luck in doing that when the baby begins to show, heh heh heh.

The plot is... well, unless I'm to assume that Charity has no common sense, which I'm sure is not what the author wants me to do, Charity must be crazy to marry and sleep with a man who may just wake up one day and remember who he is. Romance heroines aren't noted for their reasoning faculties, true, but this one takes the cake in the stupid farm. Not telling him about the baby she is carrying is another example of Charity's far from stellar reasoning capabilities. Luke isn't too smart either, mind you. He keeps saying that his peers may not welcome a Scottish farm girl as a wife. So what use then is his supposedly powerful Duke of Wakefield title? As for Helena versus Charity, it's an obvious choice from his feelings towards the two women as well as the behavior of Helena's father, but Luke can't see the obvious, much less the trees and the forests.

Ms Manuel's plotting is too obvious and too dependent on the characters unnecessarily keeping secrets, following a tortuous code of honor, or misinterpreting each other to stir up conflict. I have lost count of how many times I envision myself knocking their heads together until I hear a satisfying loud crack. I sincerely hope that her next book will have a plot that is less dependent on characters behave like oblivious, obstinate mules. Well-written prose can only get an author so far, after all.

Rating: 64

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