Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-0782-3
Paranormal Romance, 2015
Transplanting a present-day American heroine into 19th-century England requires a degree of suspension of disbelief on the reader’s part. Well, that’s assuming that she can get over the whole time travel premise, of course, but if she picks up this book and can’t get over that premise, she has only herself to blame. Well, more suspension of disbelief is needed, at least in Gina Lamm’s Kiss the Earl, because the heroine Ella Briley and everyone in that time can understand one another just fine, and no one seems to find her American accent noteworthy. Also, she doesn’t bother to hide the fact that she’s from present-day America and nobody tries to commit her into a mad house.
But a bigger suspension of disbelief is needed when it comes to the hero. You see, Patrick Meadowfair, the Earl of Fairhaven, wants to help his friend Amelia. Amelia is in love with an unsuitable bloke who lacks a title, so she has a plan. Patrick will “kidnap” Amelia to Gretna Greene, her bloke will save her, and everyone wins because (a) the girl’s parents will be so grateful that they will allow Amelia to marry that bloke, and (b) Patrick’s new reputation as a kidnapper of genteel damsels will endear her to the Ton, as we all know men with reputations are in demand in Society. Instead of committing his friend to an asylum, Patrick agrees to the plan and kidnaps…
… Ella, our heroine who has just been sucked through a magic mirror into this time. Oops. Meanwhile, Amelia gives up on the plan without telling Patrick, because she’s such a fabulous friend like that, leaving Patrick to wonder whether he should look for her or deal with Ella, who tells him that she is a time traveler who needs to find her way back to her time. Ella is sent to his time, thanks to this creepy housekeeper woman who seems to make it her mission to grab women from present day America and throw them into the paths of 19th century noblemen. I suspect that this housekeeper woman is deranged Jane Austen groupie who thinks that stranding modern women is a great thing to do, as those women would love living in a time when antibiotics don’t exist, there is no modern plumbing, and childbirth is so much more risky than it is today. At any rate, this is the story.
The plot is completely off, and the execution is worse. Ella is supposed to be feisty, I suspect, but she appears instead to be a clingy barnacle, resenting Amelia for supposedly having commandeered Patrick’s affections and passive-aggressively forcing Patrick to keep choosing between her and Amelia. I don’t know if she loves him as much as she just doesn’t want to be stuck in 19th century without a boyfriend, because she panics and starts crying when she imagines that Patrick will ditch her for Amelia. At any rate, our heroine is desperate, clingy, passive aggressive, and as deep as a puddle. She’s annoying when she’s trying to be sassy and irritating when she’s batting her eyelashes and trying to act like a wounded doe.
As for Patrick… good lord, what a loser. He’s such a pathetic doormat that nobody will be interested even if he’s given away for free by IKEA. Amelia predictably turns out to be as selfish and bratty as her actions would suggest, and he’s like, oh, but she is his friend, and he can’t hurt her feelings, so maybe he’d try to ruin his life just to make her happy? That kind of thinking is like a pattern for him. Like I’ve said. pathetic.
I’m almost tempted to say that Kiss the Earl boasts two characters who would be more at home in a story meant for young kids, due to their imbecile antics, but I’d like to think that even young kids will find these two obnoxious and death-worthy.