Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3528-2
Historical Romance, 2014
One reason I miss old school historical romances is the language. When done right, the language was lush, larger than life, and brimming with passion – a far cry from today when most of the historical romances come off like modern-day people playing dress up. Back then stories can span continents, moving from harems to pirate ships… oh, full of atmosphere and excitement! Of course, not everything was nice back then – there were way too many conflicts that stem from the hero deciding that the heroine is a skank and hence is ripe for raping and slapping. Still, there is no harm missing the good stuff of those good old days.
Kathleen Bittner Roth’s Celine is set in mid-19th century Louisiana, and the author’s narrative has an old-school vibe to it. I’m excited after reading the first two pages, settling down to have the time of my life… and then I realize the hero is ruining everything.
I know, the plot first. Celine Kirkland is a young widow, in her early twenties, and already she has no one to call a family. She barely escaped with her life from the accident that claimed the lives of the child she was carrying, her husband, and her father-in-law. When her mother-in-law passed on, she was truly alone. Fortunately, she was taken in by the Andrews family, which is wealthy enough to let her still be wait on hand and foot by servants, so don’t fret, people. Celine isn’t going to have to become a chambermaid anytime soon. In fact, she has a nice Plan B – her BFF owns a luxurious hotel and she has a standing invitation to go there and stay with that family. I don’t know why the author doesn’t want me to feel any sympathy or urgency for the heroine, but maybe she has a secret plan I am not privy to.
Trevor, the Andrews prodigal son, is a well-known womanizer and rogue who immediately makes the move on her when he comes back, that is, until he realizes whom she is and decides to be a little more respectful. However, Celine is immediately thirsty for him. Really, she wastes no time imagining how it’d be like to “lay with him”, and is soon letting his hands move under her clothes into places where she should probably charge for a feel or two. Previously, Celine seems to be a pretty interesting, self aware woman who is determined to make her way as an independent woman, but the moment she sees Trevor, she becomes another panting member of his harem. I suppose this is the author’s idea of accelerating the passion to the next level ASAP, but I really wish more time had been spent to develop the romance properly and more believably.
Worse, the story is then catalyzed by Trevor’s tedious waffling. This guy has commitment issues – he can’t commit to a stance, much less a woman. Oh, she’s too pure for him, so he’d touch her here and there and then acts like he doesn’t care anymore! Wait, she seems more interested in his cousin Cameron, so she’s not pure anymore, so he’d do and say things to hurt her! Wait, she’s pure again, but this time he’s no good for her, so he’d touch her here and there and then act like he doesn’t care! Oh no, she is smiling at Cameron – 300% not pure anymore – time to do and say things to hurt her! Repeat and rinse and I get a conflict powered by the hero’s rampant, obnoxious behavior.
Things get better in the later third or so when the Native Americans show up and there are some danger and road trip stuff happening. This part saves the whole story, as Celine once again finds her spine and even has a few good moments here and there. I still can’t stop giving Trevor the side eye though – he’s still annoying as always, and I also end up giving various secondary characters the side eye when they start insisting to Celine that Trevor really, really loves her. Seriously, what is the appeal of this whiny, annoying, indecisive, immature man-child? Cameron is of course made into less of a prize as the story progresses, but I end up thinking instead that Celine should just ditch the men and hack it solo when it comes to forging her destiny – don’t settle, wait for a more worthy bloke to show up down the road. This story and the man that is supposed to be the hero are all unworthy of her character. She deserves better, and I’d like to imagine that I do too.