Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-238676-2
Historical Romance, 2016
Chasing Lady Amelia is less subtle as a “homage” compared to the previous book in the Keeping Up with the Cavendishes series, but it is still one – it’s a nod to that old romantic movie Roman Holiday. Given that the author has drastically changed the entire premise, I’m not sure what makes this stand out from other stories featuring petulant runaway brats, but then again, we all need a gimmick to stand out in a glutted market.
Amelia, one of the three sisters of the newly minted – and American, gasp – Duke of Durham – is commandeered by her grandmother do that parade in nice dresses, look pretty, and catch a suitable bloke thing. She doesn’t like that, however, because she is a liberated American who wants to see the world and does whatever she wants and nobody can stop her. Stand back, everyone, and watch her stomp her foot. It’s a sexy foot. Oh, and Amelia is also concerned about tainting her family’s reputation, so she’d only do adventures discreetly. Although, being American, her personal dictionary probably defines “discreet” as “with all the subtlety of a pregnant elephant having a difficult delivery”.
In another part of town, Alistair Finlay-Jones is ordered by his uncle, Baron Wrotham, to marry one of the Cavendish sisters, so that there will be a much-needed infusion of cash to bolster the family fortune. Alistair and his uncle don’t get along, as the man thinks of our hero as a dissolute SOB, and poor Alistair has to thus wine and whore his way all over town to prove his uncle right. The poor thing. No man should be forced to lead the playboy life just because his uncle is meanie – what a poor, tortured bloke. Alistair is conflicted. How can he marry a woman when he is only the heir to a “minor barony”? I’m sure there are many shopgirls willing to jump at the chance, but something tells me Alistair would prefer a well-endowed and well-dowered woman who magically loves him for him despite him only being such a puny heir. Heirs to minor baronies are the most oppressed sods in the world, you know.
At any rate, their Roman Holiday begins when Amelia, as “Amy Dish” the runaway schoolgirl, decides to tag along with Alistair on an adventure. He knows who she is, she knows that he may be a fortune hunter, but they have so much fun that she just has to spread those beauties and give him full access to Planet Amelia. What will happen at the end of the holiday? You may think that Alistair won’t have much of a problem here, as Amelia is so happy to spread them around (now you know why her grandmother wants to see this dummy married off ASAP), and sleeping with Amelia would surely net him a bride if he plays his cards right, but ah, he is in love with her, so he must let her go. The same old tedious song and dance ensues.
The first and last third of this book is written in moron language – both characters are so ridiculous and absurd, claiming one thing and acting in ways that contradict that claim without any shred of self awareness. Occasionally, the author shows some awareness on how her characters are such fools, but she plays their stupidity straight for laughs. In other words, this is one story where the reader will either laugh or cringe at the main characters, rather than with them.
The middle third, however, is solid. Amelia and Alistair share some very well-written moments together, resonating either humor or tenderness very well. Mind you, I’m not sure how much of this can be attributed to the author or the movie she is paying homage to, but the end result is still an enjoyable read. There are moments when I actually believe that they may just be falling in love. I also like how Amelia takes responsibility for her own ruination – she wants it, so she’d live with the consequences – although this flies out the window the moment Amelia discovers whom Alistair really is and starts acting up like every other idiot heroine who wants the peen but refuses to pay the piper when she is caught.
I don’t know. There is a good story buried somewhere in here, so Chasing Lady Amelia can be frustrating to read as the author has the ability, but she often seems to just chase after the lowest hanging fruit instead. Most heartbreaking is how the author’s determined fidelity to tropes in the late third of the book absolutely kills any shred of character development in the middle third of the book. I want to like this book so much more, but I also find myself cringing so hard at many instances in this book. I suppose a three oogie score is a fair one for this book, but with a caveat – with the rampant stupidity running all over the place, this is definitely a case of buyers beware.