Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-054313-2
Historical Romance, 2004
She could have written a formulaic Regency-era historical romance, but Suzanne Enoch instead comes up with a story that is a little different from the usual fare. No doubt she will be grovelling to the mighty powers-that-be for her sins later on, but for now, England’s Perfect Hero will be an enjoyable change from the glut of same old stale offerings – provided that readers can accept the very muted sexual tension in this book compared to that in Ms Enoch’s previous offerings.
Robert Carroway is an ex-soldier with post-trauma mental disturbances. Tortured badly in while in French captivity and haunted by his ordeals in the battlefield, Robert retreats from society since his return from the war. He can barely hold a conversation properly without suffering panic attacks that can be triggered by the wrong choice of words by other people. The one bright spot – or maybe his last anchor to sanity – is his sister’s friend Lucinda Barrett. Lucinda is one of the three friends that started that Lesson in Love list thingie, which for the purpose of this review will be a list of good traits the women want to look out for in a man. Lucinda targets Geoffrey Newcombe, a handsome man, based on the items on her list. How can poor Robert compete with dashing Geoffrey? (Hint: the author’s unimaginative plot treatment of Geoffrey will do the trick.) Luckily for him, Lucinda sees him as a friend and offers to help him start a rose garden even as he starts to plan a military strategy to woo her for himself.
Now, the good things first: the characters. Robert is a very sympathetic character – tortured but not a jerk, hurt but not whiny, wrongly branded as a traitor, boo-hoo-hoo. Lucinda doesn’t have much going for her other than having what seems like a never ending flow of kindness emanating from her, but she’s smart, she doesn’t have contrived mom and dad issues, and she doesn’t try too hard to be a formulaic vapid self-proclaimed bluestocking. These two characters are fine in their own right.
But put them together and I get a relationship that is more like that of a caregiver and her charge than two sexually and emotionally compatible people. It is almost page 150 before Lucinda even acknowledges that Robert is attractive, and even after that, there is nearly zero sexual tension between those two. This muted sexual tension and minimal romantic interactions between the main characters, coupled with the unimaginative way the author deals with the other man, make England’s Perfect Hero a decent and somewhat different read while remaining an unsatisfying romance nonetheless.