Mills & Boon, £5.99, ISBN 978-0-263-26895-0
Historical Romance, 2019
Pavia Honeysett is the daughter of a wealthy man who made his fortune in tea. When the story opens, she is waiting for her turn to do a sexy dance at a tavern. No, it’s not that her entire family died in some tragic accident. You see, Pavia’s mother is a native of India, and our heroine, therefore doesn’t fit into the paler sect that is Polite Society, and despite this, her father is determined that his grandchildren will be born into a family with a noble title. Hence, he is offering her daughter off to any nobleman with a big dowry to sweeten the deal, and so far one taker is an old coot whose very name has her class mates at her finishing school going “Eeeuw!” – this is a man that no decent family will want to be linked to, but he’s certainly good enough for Pavia’s father.
This creepy old man prizes virginity and purity, so Pavia’s plan is to lose her virginity ASAP. In her mind, she will then tell her father, who will then go, “Zoinks! Foiled by crafty deflowerment!” He will then gracefully allow our heroine to go back to India, where she will be free to have adventures without having to be plagued by the need to marry anyone ever again. This is why she is at the equivalent of a strip joint. If she wants to get deflowered, she knows that she deserves to be done in by a man of quality, whatever that means, and everyone knows that you can have your pick of such men in a place full of inebriated types howling and leering at women on stage.
Okay, to give the young lady some credit, she has birth control with her in anticipation of the grand deflowering. That counts for something, right?
The man in question is Major Camden Lithgow. The kill-kill bang-bang sojourn for him is over, and he is back in London to deliver the news of the death of the Duke of Cowden’s son to that old man. He stops at the tavern to momentarily drown survivor’s guilt and other blues, and that’s when Pavia’s hips-don’t-lie thing seduces him into doing what our heroine wants her to do.
Naturally, our heroine’s parents aren’t going to simply send Pavia off on a ship to India despite her losing her cherry. No, as long as they are giving away that big dowry, they know there will be noblemen impoverished and desperate enough to snap our heroine even if she had been a town bicycle for men in every continent in the world. They will get a blue-blooded man with a nice title to be their son-in-law, so off Pavia goes, back to the ballrooms to snag another bloke for her parents. As you can guess, she bumps into Major Camden again. That one night was incredible, and subsequent meetings only intensify their desire for one another. Alas, “Major” isn’t a title that will appease her parents…
Buried somewhere in these pages is a solid love story that could have been both different from the norm and interesting. I know, Pavia doesn’t come off in my synopsis of this story, but she’s more of a naïve and idealistic young lady than a dumb-dumb. The way the author handles Pavia’s parents in the first half or so suggests that she is perfectly aware of her heroine’s naïveté, as her parents are portrayed more as pragmatic sorts rather than some greedy, grasping caricatures. However, instead of letting Pavia and Camden discover one another naturally, she introduces a tired plot device that forces them together prematurely, and the story abruptly morphs into a very familiar marriage of forced necessity, and both characters begin to resemble every other hero and heroine that has starred in such a story. The story is still readable, but I feel that the magic in the first half is gone in the second half, and I miss that keenly.
Even in the first half, Camden’s character never rings real. He is one of those open-minded, respect diversity sorts – which is nice, but unbelievable when taken in consideration with his upbringing and past. How did he become so wise and enlightened? Did he meet some magic POC dude during his soldierly spree abroad, one who taught him how to become a twenty-first century progressive? His parents are all about keeping to their own type and social circles, so really, how did he become what he is? Camden seems to have sprung out full-grown from the author’s forehead like Athena herself. His background story is seemingly included as an excuse to give him some angst, rather than something that has shaped his perspective and attitude. Still, for the most part he’s an alright hero, and he has decent chemistry with Pavia.
At any rate, One Night with the Major is alright. It’s kind of bewildering, though, that the author seems intent on making this one as ordinary as possible. I’ve used “alright”, “decent”, and “readable” to describe this thing, when the author could have easily made me use much more positive adjectives if she had done things differently. Oh well, I guess the workings of an author’s mind can be really mysterious indeed.