Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-8501-1
Historical Romance, 2014
Molly Robbins is a lady’s maid who, thanks to a democratic relationship with Lady Mercy Danforthe and her brother Carver, has never imagined that her station in life could hold her back from her dreams. When the story opens, she has left her husband-to-be at the altar to meet Carver in London. Carver, you see, has playfully promised her a loan to start her own dress shop in London, and Molly realizes that this is her one golden opportunity to achieve her dream. She’d make sure that Carver does as he promised, and she would make him sign a contract in the process. Oh, she’d pay him back, of course, and she will do it without having to take off her clothes, thank you very much. She’s not that kind of lady, after all. Carver, however, eventually has designs of the other nature on our spunky seamstress.
The plot sounds interesting, but I have to say: Miss Molly Robbins Designs a Seduction is one of the first books in a long, long time to make my eyes cross while I’m trying to read it. The first quarter or so of this book is an excruciating bore because there is no back story that should be left out of this tale. I know way far more about Molly Robbins than I care to, and most of these details don’t do anything to further the story. Also, it seems like the author is paid by the word or something, because her sentences can really run like Usain Bolt with a pack of anti-doping chiefs hot on his tail.
But more annoyingly, the characters barely interact in a romantic manner. The author is more focused on humorless shenanigans that revolve mostly around Molly Robbins looking down her nose at Carver like he’s a used sheepskin that she has accidentally stepped on while waiting for the Red Sea to part for her. I don’t know what happened to Molly when she was younger, but maybe she was never hugged by anyone before, as she acts like she has an entire carton of sticks shoved up her rear end.
She is, easily, the worst businesswoman ever. When she hears that Carver is recommending the women he knows to her establishment, she is furious because those women are cheap and slutty, and worse, he’s doing her a favor and she resents that.
“I don’t want gifts from you,” she continued. “I don’t want anything I cannot repay promptly. Money may not be very important to you, as it has always been in your possession, but for me it is a serious matter. I certainly do not want anyone thinking I’m one of your women, taking you for every penny while your transitory, puppy-dog attention lasts.”
So, let’s see. She’s not too good for him when she asks him for a loan, but now that she has his money, suddenly she’s morality floating on a storm cloud waiting to fling thunderbolts at immoral men like Carver. Her logic doesn’t even make sense. Money is important to her… and yet, she’d rather remain indebted to him and delay her independence than to entertain the business he is sending her way. What kind of nonsense is this?
But that’s what Molly is. She is a hypocritical rhubarb who acts like she is too good for everybody. Even late in the story, she is still raining all kinds of condemnation on Carver without even bothering to find out whether her accusations are valid.
“It’s not your fault that you’ve been spoiled and cosseted, protected from making decisions. You can’t help being born an earl. You are lucky to have blindly devoted, loyal servants like Edward Hobbs in London and Mr. Phipps here. Not to mention a sister who is more than happy to direct your life and would even pick a bride for you, if you let her. I daresay if I was born with people to do everything for me, I, too, would have become lazy and complacent.”
That’s on page 307, with about 70 pages to go before the story ends.
Never mind that we have a working class woman talking to Carver, the Earl of Havercham, in such a manner. This story takes place in a world where titles exist only to show people that the title-holder is rich and eligible for marriage. Let’s talk about how hard it is to believe that a woman would have a happily ever after with a man that she clearly doesn’t respect even a little. Or that her attraction to Carver, therefore, shows how much her so-called principles mean when she’s all hot for that lazy and complacent bastard. Everything about Molly is utterly vile.
Carver is a nicer fellow – he sets up homes for kids in his spare time, after all. But the story is mostly from Molly’s point of view, so the poor man comes off like a punching bag for Molly to censure, mock, and insult whenever she’s in the mood, which is often.
All this while, I am hoping that the author is aiming to make this story some kind of parody of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded or other ridiculous morality heroine tales of the 18th century, but no. The author has Molly squarely in the right here, and wants me to see the joyless and illogical hypocrite as some kind of virtuous damsel I should be rooting for. Well, I’d be happy to root for her to be the female lead character in the sequel to Rosemary’s Baby or Cthulhu – does that count?