by Miranda Neville, historical (2009)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-171591-4
If the hero and the heroine of Miranda Neville's Never Resist Temptation are puppies, this one would have been a cute read. But our hero Anthony, the Earl of Storrington, and our heroine Jacobin de Chastelux are supposed to be adults, so this story turns out to be not so cute after all.
It's convoluted, the plot, so bear with me. Jacobin's overweight evil uncle managed to momentarily stop thinking about pastries to have an affair with Anthony's mother, and now Anthony wants revenge by bankrupting Lord Candover. Winning Lord Candover's niece in a gamble is just part of the plan, really. This niece, Jacobin, however flees before she is forced to become a mistress to this Earl of Storrington.
Jacobin then decides to pose as a male chef, using the clever name Jacob Léon. The author has some secondary characters remark early in the story on the eerie similarity between the names Jacob Léon and Jacobin, so you see, even Ms Neville believes that her heroine is stupid and she wants you to know it. Because romance heroines have some kind of allure that turn uncivilized men into rapists even when they are disguised as men, "Jacob" nearly gets buggered by men until you-know-who comes to save "him". Later, Anthony decides to hire "Jacob" because Jacob is great at cooking pastries and Lord Candover loves pastries, so Anthony figures that having a chef like Jacob would make Lord Candover drop by his house more often. Don't laugh, this is really the plot of the story!
At any rate, Lord Candover decides to pretend that he's poisoned after attending the Prince Regent's party, and guess which chef is implicated. "Jacob" decides to run to Anthony and seek employment there, this time as a female. Wanted by the authorities, she decides to use a new name that no one will surely trace back to Jacobin de Chastelux - Jane Castle.
The whole plot would have been so much simpler, I tell you, if Jacobin has seen the Earl of Storrington before she ran away, because shortly after she meets Anthony, she's more than happy to do everything with him. Because he's cute, you see, and because he has such a sad past. She will enthusiastically make love with Anthony - as long as he doesn't let her believe that she's a tawdry mistress of his, she'd let him put it anywhere. (Not there, though, because this is not an erotic romance.) Isn't Jacobin cute? Meanwhile, it takes Anthony a shockingly long amount of time before he realizes that hiring a chef wanted by the authorities may actually mean terrible things to the both of them if they get caught. But he trusts Jacobin, you see, because she has told him how much she hates Napoleon Bonaparte, so naturally she can't be a French spy like some claim she is! Both Anthony and Jacobin walk the fine line separating naïveté and stupidity throughout the story.
There are the occasional cute moments in this story that catch me by surprise and make me laugh in a good way, but on the whole Never Resist Temptation is just too silly for my liking. Still, I have to say that I like Jacobin quite a little because while she may be a dumb bunny, she doesn't pull stupid things in the name of love. Often she can behave like a spoiled and petulant child, but at least she knows that she deserves better than being treated like dirt, and I can appreciate that. And Anthony, despite his lack of brainpower, is actually a nice guy. Oh, and he is not a spy. That will put to rest that clearly false rumor about how all Avon authors had been told earlier this year to make all their heroes affiliated with the War Office. Both Anthony and Jacobin are out of their depths in this story. They should be giggling and holding hands while prancing around a ballroom or something instead.
While I cannot say that I find Never Resist Temptation a good read, I suspect that one day this author could come up with something that I could really enjoy getting into. Until that day, then.
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