Bantam, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-440-24431-8
Historical Romance, 2008
Oh dear, how do I put this in a nice way? I do not enjoy reading Sherry Thomas’s debut historical romance Private Arrangements at all. I am aware of all the critical acclaim lavished onto this book and I try very hard to enjoy the book, but in the end, I find myself appreciating the relationship between the heroine’s mother and her unexpected beau while the romance between the hero and the heroine bore me silly.
Gigi and Camden Saybrook do not create unpleasant rows or engage in other unbecoming displays of public affection. The upper crust London society of 1893 believe that the Saybrooks, therefore, are the perfect example of a well-mannered couple. Of course, it is easy to avoid having rows when the husband and wife live in different continents for the last ten years. You see, Camden believed that Gigi did something really bad to get him to marry her so after the marvelous honeymoon rutting, he treated her as if she had just given him the clap and ran off to America like the crybaby he was – is. When the story opens, Gigi is determined to marry a most amicable young artist so she files for divorce. Camden predictably shows up to make crybaby faces at Gigi when he’s not gnashing his teeth at her because he is so angry that she forces him to have an erection every time he is in her company.
This is not a big misunderstanding story, to give Ms Thomas credit, although I feel that this is instead a big exaggeration story. The main reason I find it hard to appreciate the story is because these characters spent ten years nursing a grudge over something that is, to me, not that heinous. If these two refuse to speak to each other for three years, I can accept that, but ten years is way too long a time for me, especially when the characters are essentially playing a name-calling game.
And come to think of it, I do not get a clear idea of why Camden refuses to just divorce Gigi if he hates her that much. Gigi is a self-absorbed twit who may be smart when it comes to money but not when it comes to matters of the heart. But as silly as Gigi may have been, I don’t think there is anything she has done here that warrants ten years of brooding and grudge-nursing that culminate with Camden the crybaby showing up to call Gigi names while having the chubby of his life in her presence. What happened to cutting loose and moving the bloody hell on? At least Gigi is trying to move on with her life, even if she’s going in a wrong direction, which is more than I can say about the big sad crybaby hero.
I also find this book easy to put down because the characters keep repeating themselves from chapter to chapter. Gigi and Camden pretty much see each other, feel lust, and then say unkind things to each other, with the scene usually ending with Camden reaffirming his belief that Gigi is such a nasty woman. Because I am not invested in their romance, which feels like a playroom fight stretched up to ten years, I find the whole repetitious cycle that is the relationship too boring for my liking.
The unlikely romance between Gigi’s mother and the Duke of Perrin is too cute though. Why can’t those two get more of the spotlight? I find them much more interesting than those tedious emo kids running around all angst-ridden and blue because LiveJournal hasn’t been invented yet at that time to allow them to express themselves via poetry.
Having said all that, I have to point out that I enjoy the technical aspects of this story. The prose is clean and polished. The author attempts and succeeds to some degree to create characters that are uniquely hers. I also appreciate how Gigi actually has a life – and a love life – of her own even as her husband is busy poking pins into her effigy while listening to Dashboard Confessional or something all the way in America. It’s just that all that drama between Camden and Gigi feel way too juvenile for my liking – I feel that the characters need to grow up first before they settle down and have babies like grown-ups do.