Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-054394-9
Historical Romance, 2004
Gayle Callen’s No Ordinary Groom starts off like a typical Regency historical romance. Our hero William Chadwick is an ex-spy turned Lord Chadwick now hiding behind a foppish facade. He is engaged to marry our heroine Jane Whittington. Jane is the usual heroine that doesn’t fit in because she is “too opiniated”, bored by the parties and other Ton events, et cetera, and she lives only to see her Daddy again. Never mind that Daddy is pushing her to marry William as much as her mother is – she loves Daddy so she takes out her resentment at not marrying for the big L word on Mommy. (She has no idea that her father is Will’s superior.) Like I said, all in all, it’s business as usual.
Things become a little more interesting when Jane starts seeing through William’s facade. Because she is a woman that doesn’t let William take her too much for granted, the scenes where they are getting to know each other better are quite quaint and amusing. But the story really goes out of control when the unnecessary lies and secrets start to pile and I become as exasperated as Jane by the time page 280 rolls in. The external conflict arises from a woman that was a Russian spy entering their lives and William decides to help his buddies to foil this woman’s plans.
The problem stems from William. He has no good reason to act like a popinjay in the first place, and he comes off like a total idiot. Does he seriously expect to find a happy and love-filled marriage by deceiving his wife by deliberately letting her think he is a shallow and irritating fop? How long does he intend to keep this up? Until death do they part? He has resigned from his Secret Services position, so there is no good reason – and no, his so-called torture sure isn’t good enough a reason – for him to pull off an act of such magnitude in colossal stupidity. So when he decides to help his buddies in foiling the Russian spy’s plan to marry a nobleman, he has more excuses to lie or avoid telling Jane the truth, all the while whining about how he wants a happy marriage based on love and trust. Talk about being ridiculous. I would be amused if I don’t get a headache from his antics.
Jane is a decent heroine but she is close to being a shrew by the last few chapters, but I don’t blame her. The man she loves and who claims to love her is playing silly mind games with her for so long, I’d probably be a ranting, foaming lunatic myself if I were in her shoes. She’s not dumb – throughout the book, she keeps telling Will that he must respect her opinions and trust her if they want this marriage to work, but Will always condescendingly tells her back that what they have should be enough. And what do they have, really? Will is a complete idiot, plain and simple.
Since I don’t like stories where secrets and lies just pile on without any actual good reason to justify their existence, No Ordinary Groom really gets on my nerves. I can’t help wondering what Ms Callen thinks she is doing to create a story like this one without providing any good reason for the increasingly convoluted secrets, evasions of truth, misassumption, and misunderstandings in this book. Is this story supposed to be fun?