Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233465-7
Historical Romance, 2015
Poor Linnet Holland. She is currently allergic to English aristocrats because she was once led to have… expectations when one such bloke courted her, only to ditch her once her father learned of the man’s debts. Our American heiress now lives on hyperbole – all English noblemen are fortune hunters – and has her eyes set on marrying a fellow American bloke instead. American blokes can’t be fortune hunters, after all.
Well, Linnet’s horrible evening begins on a high note when Frederick Van Hausen, whom Linnet has known for a long time (she had a crush on him back then, in fact), abruptly professes his admiration for her and suggests that maybe they can meet at one of those private spots during a party to discuss the possibility of a more permanent alliance. Because he is hot and charming, oh and he’s also American, Linnet immediately accepts and gets all excited about being Mrs Van Hausen. Alas, what should have been a romantic proposal is ruined, absolutely ruined, when that wretched English dude, the Earl of Featherstone, crashes the moment and starts goading Frederick into a fight. The two men have a brief tussle, and because John – Jack to you and me and everyone else – is the romance hero, all he has to do is to flex his muscles and Frederick goes down cold.
It gets worse. Her mother and the worst gossip in town crash the party next, just in time for them to see Jack proposing marriage to Linnet and kissing her. While Jack tries to tell the two ladies that they are engaged, Linnet protests loudly to sabotage everyone’s effort to ensure that her reputation isn’t ruined. Fortunately, the others ignore her – a wise action that, unfortunately, is rarely repeated as often as it should be during the rest of the story. Eventually Linnet learns that Frederick is, indeed, neck-deep in debts – apparently fortune hunters can be Americans as well, imagine that – and decides to take matters in her own hands. She will go off to England to get Jack’s sister-in-law, a matchmaker of some renown that specializes in arranging marriages of true love, to find her a husband. Don’t ask.
Catch a Falling Heiress starts out very promisingly – while the underlying premise is familiar, the author tweaks things considerably to create some refreshing, interesting moments. For example, Linnet is not too close to her mother, who seems like the typical pushy “I want my daughters to marry well, and this is a bad thing, because heroines should be allowed to marry out of love and, in the meantime, have sex out of wedlock with any hot guy that
catch their fancy they truly love!” mothers in stories of this sort, while she is close to her more indulgent father. However, Linnet soon realizes that her mother genuinely wants the best for her, and the woman believes that being the wife of an English nobleman would give Linnet the freedom and ability to spread her wings compared to what Linnet would get if she becomes the wife of an American rich bloke. As Linnet’s mother tells her, that woman doesn’t want Linnet to have a life like hers, limited to managing a house while being treated like someone too simple-minded to understand the real world. Meanwhile, the “nice” father turns out to be pretty cold and calculative, revealing to Linnet that he has been indulging her and undermining his wife’s efforts to match Linnet to some English bloke because he’d rather see her wed to some American guy with a business venture that can benefit his own financial interests. Both father and mother agree, though, that Linnet is not marrying Frederick no matter how much she’d like that to happen.
Meanwhile, Jack tells Linnet that Frederick is a bad guy, but naturally, he can’t tell her why because he’s honor-bound to keep Frederick’s villainy a secret. You can imagine how well Linnet reacts to that, I’m sure, and I can’t say I blame her. A lot of problems in this story is caused by Jack often treating Linnet as if she’s too simple to understand anything, and therefore, she should either be barked orders at or be “persuaded” by his manly kisses and sexual prowess. He’s going to marry her, I’d think he could at least come up with some kind of lies if he doesn’t want to break his vow – tell Linnet that Frederick forces himself on the neighborhood cattle, for example – but no, that would be too sensible for our manly man here.
But Linnet does herself no favors by acting like a spoiled little girl who wants the cake and eats it too, and therefore spends almost the entire book stomping her foot and insisting that someone hands her the cake. Her character arc actually degenerates as the story progresses. Whatever epiphany she had early in the book only compels her to do bizarre things. Chiefly, wanting to marry anyone but Jack, because Jack is a fortune hunter and, therefore, anyone else will do. She’s been told repeatedly that it is unlikely that other men would want to marry someone whom everyone knows to have been compromised by Jack, but no, she will never marry Jack. Okay, Jack can marry her, if he agrees to all kinds of unreasonable ultimatum she sets out for him, and when he refuses to play her games, she takes his refusal as confirmation that he is the worst fortune hunter – ever.
Jack and Linnet spends the second and final thirds of the entire book playing this silly song and dance repeatedly, to the point that I get so sick and tired of them that I can only feel a degree of relief when the story finally ends. Both of them behave like silly kids, and Linnet, especially, can be so stubborn and ridiculous. It’s a pity that Linnet doesn’t get what she wants and ends up marrying a dock worker – a big reality slap is what she needs, and alas, she doesn’t get one here. The story ends with the heroine sulking and the hero pretty much going, “Dear, dear, you silly little thing, you’re so adorable when you’re a dumb-dumb.”
Linnet’s mother wants her to have a life different from hers. The thing is, with Linnet’s deplorable state of intelligence, being treated like a dumb doll may just be the kindest fate one can give Linnet, as that darling is clearly not cut out to face any situation more complicated than picking the dress she’d like to wear for a party. Since Jack often treats her that way, I’ve no doubt that these two would be happy, especially since Jack seems to instinctively realize that giving Linnet now and then the impression that she’s really as smart as she imagines herself to be would keep that darling all sweet and agreeable.
Therefore, I can’t say that the romance in Catch a Falling Heiress is wrong. Also, the author is, as always, a solid storyteller – the narrative here is very easy to read, with some sly humor to keep things interesting here and there. It’s just that, sigh, the main characters can really grate on my nerves, and I guess I’m too jaded and old to humor these brats in their silly merry-go-round nonsense.