by Lynn McKay, historical (2002)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4976-7
Sweet Deceit is an annoying "Innocent virgin bride to a sexually ineffective older man must sleep with his nephew for an heir" story. It is annoying because the author, probably in her inexperience, does a helter-skelter thing with her characters. Both Diana Rainville and Gavin Winslow have their motivations and intentions flip-flop non-stop without rhyme or reason, it's hard to think of these two as coherent, distinct characters.
Diana's father is a scientist who has happily lets the whole family collapse from neglect, and young, innocent Diana has been the one doing the running the family thing. She marries the elderly Duke of Wemberley, but the man, alas, can't even put his lips over her kittens without her going "Eeeee!" Yet she is intent on doing her Duty Sex, but he knows it's no use. Yet he must have an heir, or else all his money and all will go to the ever-handy nasty cousin plot device.
So enters his nephew Gavin. He first stumbles upon our heroine looking for bugs and getting lost in the family maze, comes on to her because he assumes that she's a family help, and she thinks that he's so virile and her senses go ding-a-ling HE'S THE ONE! dong-dong-dunce even as she does the obligatory "I'm a virtuous woman who doesn't do the adultery thing, so don't hate me readers!" whine.
But of course she will do it. The virile stud is the hero every time.
Wimberley, that decrepit bag, is no prize: he ruthlessly manipulates the two young dimbulbs like a deathbed Machiavelli, all but directing the actual mechanics of the copulation of the two young 'uns. Although a scene like that will have made my day, really. Wimberley's "You call that shagging? My 98-year old grandfather can roger better than you! Rub her magic button! Slow strokes, moron, slow! Can't you see she's close to hitting? Slow down so that she can enjoy it more, but not too much as we don't want her last two brain cells to fry completely. And have you been eating the sperm-counting boosting diet I asked the cook to make you?" as he whacks Gavin's naked heaving and pumping buttocks with a barbed cane will be so cool a scene.
Anyway, this is a pretty familiar tale of romantic victimization. Diana is a standard victim, letting everybody roger her in the name of Duty, Obedience, and Loyalty. In fact, Gavin tells her that he finds her attractive chiefly for her (I quote) "kindness, loyalty, innocence... qualities I prize more than you know". He sounds like he's going to molest an oblivious and tenacious autistic little girl.
But despite the author's inability to breathe any new life in a tired plot, what is worse is her character's behavior and words that seem to change with plot requirements with no clear rhyme or reason. One moment Gavin is coming on to Diana because he thinks she's a house help and hence has a "Victimize me for free" neon sign blinking right over her genitalia, but subsequent scenes have him balking to sleep with Diana when he is given the Free Rogering, Past Go, Collect $200 pass. Then he accuses Diana of being unhappy with the prospect of him selected as her stud and she finding some other men behind her husband's back. Huh? The latter succeeds in creating a minor conflict in this story, but there's no reason why he should talk or behave that way, in a way that contradicts everything he'd said or done in the previous chapter. And there are more contradictory behavior from him. As for Diana, she protests and protests, until she gets the first taste of the Gavin Goostick, and then it's the Why Wouldn't He Love Me karaoke blues time.
Such contradictory behaviors from both Diana and Gavin naturally lead to several big misunderstandings, including a major one that happens towards the end because for some reason, after pushing her away at arm's length, he assumes that she has to love him because he has shown her that he is willing to commit himself to her, and then he gets really mad when he assumes that she has betrayed her just like the slut in his past did. I scratch my head at that one: how the heck is she supposed to know when he is giving off mixed signals the entire time?
I believe that Lynn McKay is very aware of the victimization nature of her plot. Geoffrey, the Wimberly old coot, gets nastier and nastier as the page progresses, going on and on about bloodlines and eugenics - the man is no loving matchmaking limp winkie relative, but a really ruthless fiend who will get what he wants, damn anyone else who tries to stop him. Diana and Gavin even chaff against being made to play stud and brood mare for an eugenic-obsessed nutcase, but too bad the author quickly changes the subject soon after for the usual pump-me-baby-I'm-in-love nonsense and big misunderstandings galore.
So maybe the potential for Lynn McKay is there, but with below average characterization and a standard plot that is neither here nor there, she really doesn't deliver with Sweet Deceit.
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