Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-0220-0
Historical Romance, 2014
Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures is packaged to be a tale of daring adventures at exotic locales, but that is actually misleading. Unless we count premarital sex, there aren’t any truly wicked adventures here, just a road trip to Italy to see the ruins. In fact, this is arguably more about our hero Harry de Vaux, Viscount Tunbury, having his issues cheerfully tackled by Lady Elinor “Norrie” Tremaine, at least at the beginning.
But let’s have the story first. Harry has always been close to his school buddy Philip, the current Viscount Rycote, and, over the years, he’s seen basically as another member of the Tremaine family. Unfortunately, his feelings for Norrie, Philip’s sister, is far from brotherly ones, especially when she starts turning into a spirited beauty before his eyes. Harry, however, doesn’t feel that he is good enough for anyone. You see, his father is a mean drunk and his mother is the country’s most dedicated 7-11 outlet, open all day and night to any guy who catches her fancy. As a result, he feels tainted by his parents’ bad mojo and, unwilling to impose his no-good self on Norrie, he eventually takes off to do his manly man things in places like Brazil.
Eventually, he comes home and bumps into the Tremaine family again, who welcome him back as if he has never left. During this time, Harry has experienced some pulling of his head out of his own ass too – he realizes that he had been running away all this while, and maybe it is time he stops. Also, by running away, he has neglected his own sisters awfully, when he should have been a responsible big brother and protected them from his parents’ bad mojo.
But making amends to his sisters have to wait a little. You see, the Tremaine patriarch Lord Penworth hasn’t been his old self lately, and his wife decides that a trip to visit the ruins in Italy would be the thing to cheer the depressed man up. The entire family is going, of course, and since Harry has made his name as some kind of Indiana Jones type, who better to lead them around the place? With all the drama taking place at that time, it is better to be safe than sorry, after all. Harry isn’t that keen, since it means putting him in close proximity with Norrie again, but he can’t say to the people who have become his family over the years.
Norrie is the typical “I want adventures” type, but with a very nice difference: she can definitely take care of herself. In fact, the bulk of her relationship with Harry sees him treating her like she’s a sack of hot potatoes needing to be pushed into and locked up in a room in order to keep her safe. Much of his “concerns” are irrational, stemmed from his own reluctance to get a chubby in her presence, and both characters are aware of this. But because he keeps doing this, poor Harry often comes off like the slower Cynster sibling that nobody wants to talk about out of embarrassment. Meanwhile, Norrie is adorable as a heroine who can manage men, take care of herself, and doesn’t let the world get her down. I’m not sure how she comes to be so wise, but it’s amazing to see how she accurately identifies Harry’s many issues and cheerfully helps the man get over himself, all the while giving his one-dimensional cartoon skank of a mother a smackdown of epic proportions. While I’m all for amazing heroines like Norrie, I also prefer a romance in which both the hero and the heroine operate on equal playing fields, however, and here, Norrie often ends up being the mother and babysitter rather than an equal to Harry. In this case, she’s often too good for Harry, who’s actually quite the whining, complaining sort.
But the biggest letdown of Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures is how, for the most part, the story isn’t very exciting or wicked at all. Far too much space is given to Harry’s insecurities, and the poor guy tends to repeat himself too often for my liking. Some drama do crops up later in the story, but it involves the secondary characters – it’s about Norrie’s brother being drawn into his new girlfriend’s problems. Harry and Norrie end up being secondary characters of sorts in this part, as if the author has become as bored of them as I am and decides to tell a different kind of story for a change instead. This story is fine, but I’d have preferred the author allowing Harry and Norrie to do something, anything, that would make their relationship seem less like a therapist doing most of the heavy-duty issue-busting for a client, while letting Phil and his girlfriend to have their own book.
Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures isn’t a bad book by any means, but it’s just so… sedate for a book with such a title. While I don’t think you should go out of your way to avoid this book, I do suggest changing one’s expectations a bit before opening this one.