Leisure, $4.99, ISBN 0-8439-4694-6
Historical Romance, 2000
In the prologue, a very, very enraged gypsy old woman curses the womanizing Duke of Badrick who caused her daughter’s suicide. All future generations of Dukes would not have a happy marriage. Their wives would bear them sons, but misery, heartbreak, betrayal, and more will befall the marriage. The duke says something to the effect of bah humbug, but little does he know, the curse is really going to happen.
With a prologue like that, I have to keep on reading. Alas, Potent Charms soon runs out of steam and ultimately becomes very tedious to finish.
It’s now one hundred years down the road, and Stephen Lambert, the above duke’s great-grandson, isn’t a happy man. He has wed twice and each marriage ended belly-up, and now he has had enough of matrimony. But he meets Georgian miss Phoebe Rafferty, and we all know how American women with their outspoken views cast all demure hypocritical London misses to shame. Stephen decides that he would make her his mistress.
But Phoebe needs a husband and she needs one now. Her mother left a will that states that should Phoebe doesn’t get wed soon, the whole money and holdings of her family would go kaput. Of course, she really doesn’t want the money, no no no, she’s not a greedy woman, but oh, think of those poor hungry people dependent on her charity… sigh. Never mind. Pheobe wants to marry for love, but hey, we gals make do. She decides that he needs a wife, and she needs a husband, so she’d bring that man up to scratch.
Lots of things ensue. He wants her bad, but she won’t give him what he wants. Instead, our heroine goes around trying to find him a wife.
But really, Stephen’s insistence on making Phoebe his mistress and nothing more gets really old fast. Phoebe has sound reasons not to give in to his wishes – mistresses can be discarded like old clothes, after all – but Stephen refuses to consider any other alternative. The final result in one spoiled brat who not only wants the cake and eat it too, he wants the whole bloody bakery. One rolling pin deluxe coming up, you silly oaf.
And there are several weird things in this story. Phoebe’s parents are married out of love and Phoebe make a great fuss about the power of love in this book. Thing is, why then would a mother who married her husband out of love force her daughter to marry out of desperation? Deathbed dementia? Everyone calls Stephen a wife-killing monster, but he doesn’t even tell Phoebe about the curse. He expects her to be his mistress even when people call him a monster, and gets all sullen when she turns him down.
But the last straw is when the couple resolves their conflicts at the expense of a poor guy whose fault happens to be that he is cast as the Other Bloke. Poor baby. Maybe next time.
Potent Charms is fun at its first few starting chapters, right before the whole tedious psychological baggage and repetitive tug-of-war start making my eyes roll upwards.