Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-24821-0
Historical Romance, 2015
Lord Lansbury’s Christmas Wedding is the first book by Helen Dickson that I’ve read, and I have to say, the author’s style is definitely old school in this one. It is not enough to have a heart, the heroine Jane Mortimer must have a “virgin heart”, while the hero Christopher Chalfont, the Earl of Lansbury, is brimming is “masculine pride”. The characters are melodramatic and prone to overreacting, and the whole thing is akin to something by Barbara Cartland minus the ellipses overdose.
Jane Mortimer is a genteel lady who is forced to eke out a living after her father died, leaving her with very little. She returns to London to stay with an aunt, but during the sea voyage home, she happens to rescue a little girl from falling aboard. Once in London, she discovers that she has saved Octavia, the rather simple little sister of Christopher. Octavia’s mother realizes that having Jane be the companion of Octavia is the only sensible thing to do, as Octavia likes Jane and Jane is a simple creature with no discernible ambition in life other than to be a mother and be Christopher’s sweetheart when she’s not crying at the thought of her beloved dead daddy.
However, Christopher is already predisposed to hating her, even if he sees her saving his sister, because Jane is beautiful and he now hates all beautiful women due to one wounding his heart in the past. He will treat women coldly and heartlessly, because he is the boss and no woman would ever be the boss of him again! He is also determined to marry an American heiress for her dowry, and surprise, that woman turns out to be a cartoon villain. Mind you, Christopher is the one who says mean things to Jane when he’s not slagging her off to anyone who would listen, but because he is a man, he’s the hero.
It’s quite creepy how fixated Jane is on him. Because Jane has very little discernible personality outside of blind instinct to care for children and animal, I am rather taken aback by how she keeps thinking of all the funny feelings the sight of Christopher stirs in her. She stares after him, does all she can to stick close to him, and, when he kisses her, writhes and flails around like a bug pinned on a needle. She doesn’t really know him by the last page, and he gives her plenty of crap, but because he’s so hot and he makes her feel things like no man could, she wants him bad. She keeps rationalizing his actions towards her as a result of “masculine pride”, so I can only hope that she’s happy now that she’s had her hero in her clutches. I think any woman can do better than this irrational woman-hating crybaby, but I suppose someone has to love him so that the rest of us don’t have to.
The author seems to be aware of her hero being as thick as lead, but she fails to give me any reason to care for his coming to his senses. There is nothing adorable about him at all. He is prideful to the point of stupidity, he says very mean things too easily, and he is prone to sweeping generalizations and blind dislike.
The writing of this story alternates between florid and inadvertently disturbing. Things can get florid because the author loves her purple prose, and it can get creepy because the author makes a virtue out of the heroine’s “innocence”.
Was she really as innocent and prim as she appeared? His instinct detected untapped depths of passion in her that sent silent signals instantly recognisable to a lusty male. The impact of these signals brought a smouldering glow to his eyes. So much innocence excited him, made him imagine those pleasures and sensations Miss Mortimer could never have experienced being aroused by him.
Wait, the heroine is sending out “silent signals” to men around her to excite them? How does that work? With thought processes like that, Christopher seems like the kind of man who needs to live in a place where women cover themselves up from head to toe. so that he will not be drawn into being a rape-bent ape maddened by lusts that he clearly has no control over. Women are such harlots! Especially beautiful ones!
Naturally, at the end of the day, Christopher learns that while all beautiful women are hateful whores, Jane is different, so he can marry Jane and breed a dozen or so brats on her. Thus ends the epic tale of romance, perfect for Christmas reading! Or it would be, if you have a taste for those old-school romances featuring ridiculously stubborn chauvinist pigs whose possession of a penis still makes them desired husband materials.