Silver Deceptions
by Deborah Martin, historical (1994)
Topaz, $4.99, ISBN 0-451-40434-3

Before she starts writing as Sabrina Jeffries for Avon, the author wrote for Topaz under the name Deborah Martin. Wondering if the author writes in any different style as Deborah Martin as compared to the light-hearted romps of the Sabrina Jeffries books, I picked Silver Deceptions the other day when I stumbled upon it in an UBS.

I can report that I doubt any Sabrina Jeffries novel with start with a prologue where heroine Annabelle witnesses the hanging of her mother. The latter is charged for murdering her husband, which she did when she caught the man beating Annabelle.

That was in 1667. Cut to 1668. Annabelle is now a successful actress in London, more on account of her beauty as opposed to her (mainly minor) roles. She and her faithful maid/friend Charity are here for a darker reason: Annabelle wants revenge on her biological father, whom she blames for abandoning her mother and causing her to be stuck in a marriage with Annabelle's abusive stepfather. She intends to humiliate that man, make that man unable to show his face in the London Ton again by flaunting her reputation and lovers. Lovers, make-believe ones, of course. Annabelle doesn't intend to be seduced - ever.

Using a poem left by her mother as a reminder of her mother, Annabelle cultivates a reputation as the "Silver Swan" and uses her father's last name Maynard as her own. Little does she know that the Silver Swan was Daddy dearest's codename during his spy days, and Daddy is not happy at all that "Annabelle Maynard" is around. Does this woman know of a rather embarrassing debacle in his spy days? He sends Colin Jeffreys, ex-rake and now bluestocking hero, to investigate.

Colin and Annabelle, naturally, have to go gaga over each other.

Actually, Silver Deceptions has the trademark sexual tension, the good ear for dialogues and banters, and the author's ability to engage me into the story to the point that I willingly overlook the familiar elements in her story. But what exasperates me - a lot - is the heroine's spending more time trying to convince herself - and me - that she is Moral, Virtuous, and Decent than she is plotting her revenge. It doesn't make Annabelle look smart.

Annabelle and Colin should be baiting and teasing each other. Not so. Annabelle cuts herself for lying, whines that she is behaving like a trollop (you are pretending to be a trollop, so why the heck are you whining that you have to act like one, Annabelle?), complains that she doesn't like the deception (so why not go home and plant trees in the countryside or something?), but she must avenge momma but oh, she hates kissing this because she is NOT a strumpet, she hates lying because she is NOT a strumpet... it is exhausting just trying to keep up with this woman's catalogue of protests and self-righteous self-flogging. Colin runs rings around her, because for every step she makes in fighting Colin's attempt to flush her out, she retreats a hundred steps because she, oh, hateslyingandhatesactinglikeastrumpetandfeelsguiltyforlyingtoColin...

By the last page, I have my forehead on the table, drained of all energy. It's like I've spent hours listening to someone whine and complain and shriek in a voice reminiscent of nails on blackboard. Rationally, Silver Deceptions has humor, good pace, a great hero, and decent plot. But oh, Annabelle and her protestations of virtue and virginity! I need to lie down.

Rating: 69

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