Signet, $3.99, ISBN 0-451-19953-7
Historical Romance, 2000
Spoilers are gleefully dropped all over this review.
This book reads like two separate books clumsily glued together. It starts out a keeper, but halfway through the spirit of Karl Marx must have possessed me because I do want to start chanting “Death to the capitalists!” (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). And at the end of the day I don’t even think Jack of Hearts is a good story.
Anne Heriot is the daughter of a wealthy Cit who has made a fortune in textile. She wants to have a family, so off she goes to London to buy her a husband. She stays with her schoolmate Elspeth and makes up a list of potential candidates. Jack Belden, the Viscount Aldborough, is known as “Jack of Hearts” due to his charming the pantyhoses of the ladies of his acquaintances. But now he has inherited a bankrupt estate, and he needs to marry. Too bad he’s at the bottom of her list.
And also in this story is a tale of Anne vs the Luddites. More on that later.
I start out liking Anne, who’s a level-headed, practical woman. But then as I read on, I realize I’m reading nothing more than a daily itinerary of Anne and her companion Sarah in London. Today she buys ribbons and dance with Lord A___ and Earl B___, tomorrow she goes for a ride in the park and bump with Duke C___, and the day after that Mrs G takes the earliest flight out of London. And when I thought Jack and Anne finally are about to do their thing, zap! Anne goes home to the country to be the First Lady of the Industrial Revolution.
What happens is that Anne’s cousin (who has designs on her) is the foreman of her textile mills. The scum sacks a woman for whistling, and the woman’s betrothed isn’t happy. Anne, however, trusts her cousin to the point of stupidity. A child almost gets killed in an accident, and when the same man says some nasty things to the indifferent Evil Cousin (damn right!), he gets sacked. Anne hears of it, and tells the cousin, “I don’t have time to hear both sides of the story, but can you please consider getting a new machine?” Then off she goes back to London.
I revise my opinions about Anne. She’s not a likable practical woman, she’s an insufferable Marie Antoinette who deserves the kidnapping and imprisoning she gets towards the end. Death to the evil, greedy capitalists! Lynch her!
And did I mention that Jack is missing throughout the whole middle of this story? Why is this book called Jack of Hearts when the hero plays like a secondary role and leaves little impact on the reader’s mind?
Faring better is Sarah’s love affair with a former soldier Patrick. Now that’s a fine romance, and it’s not good news when a secondary romance completely overshadows the almost non-existent lead characters.
Jack of Hearts is not only slow, it reads like a disjointed work with little focus or direction. Sure, the writing is great, but then again, the telephone book’s well-written also.