Signet Eclipse, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-23397-4
Historical Romance, 2011
It is pretty much set in stone that, as much as we romance readers claim to adore everything that hails from Great Britain, the moment we set an American onto those British shores, everything British becomes instantly mutated into something foul and despicable compared to the hale and hearty virtues of everything America. One Whisper Away is an extreme example of this – the work of an author who portrays English pretty favorably in her historical romances until she introduces an American hero, and then we break into song – “America, FUCK YEAH! Coming again to save the motherfucking day yeah!” – and the whole thing turns into an “America… uh, yeah?” kind of joke.
The story is a familiar one. We have an American hero, Jonathan, the newly-minted half-Iroquois Earl of Augustine, who comes to England to thumb his nose at everything English so high that I’m surprised he doesn’t choke on his own booger. He drags his illegitimate daughter along and tries to be nice to his English half-sisters, who understandably aren’t too pleased to learn that the father they rarely saw when he was alive preferred to spend time with his American mistress and son. Of course, the fact that this half-brother keeps making all kinds of scandal and sneers when his sisters try to tell him that he is dragging them along with him into the mud doesn’t help. Our heroine is Cecily Francis, who naturally finds Jonathan an incredible change from the English milquetoasts she is forced by the author to bump into on her daily rounds around town. Soon she is risking her reputation to be with Jonathan because she wants the man who wants to marry her to marry her sister (really).
That’s pretty much the story. Jonathan is so over the top as a cartoon character, the only way he can become a palatable hero is if he were depicted in a tongue-in-cheek manner. He’s a bigot – he dismisses Cecily at first as unworthy of him because she’s not American – and he is also an uncouth ass, deliberately being rude and insulting to everybody, but these traits are passed off as glorious virtues of an alpha male American. It becomes really surreal when Jonathan begins ranting and raving about how the English are a race of elitist bigoted twits unlike Americans who are all equal and live in perfect peace and harmony regardless of race and gender. I think for a moment there Ms Wildes has completely forgotten that she is writing a story set in the 19th century, with a half-Iroquois hero, and fancied instead that she was writing a story set in an alternate, happier fantasy world where every American can hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon.
If Jonathan is an unappealing bigoted twit passed off as a paragon of democracy, Cecily is no better. She’s a hypocrite, constantly bemoaning about how the rich in England waste their money while the poor starve even as she enjoys the privileges of her aristocratic birth to the hilt. She is also one of those bizarre modern day heroines transplanted into the 19th century – her attitude towards sex and love is definitely more at home today than in that time era she supposedly lives in.
The problem with One Whisper Away is that the plot of this story revolves around our main characters doing some bizarre things that they will not get away with back in those days in the name of having sex and thumbing their collective noses at everything English. Unfortunately, the message the author sends out is a garbled one: Jonathan is as judgmental and superficial as the people he claims to despise, and being American and thus democratic means having the freedom and the entitlement to have sex everywhere and anywhere while paying lip service about caring for the poor and the children (not that the main characters actually do anything to rectify the situations they bemoan about). Emma Wildes should have just exorcised whatever English demons that haunt her by casting a few truckloads of tea into the Boston waters instead of subjecting me to this painfully insincere and hypocritical shrill scree about the evil of the English aristocrats.