Signet Eclipse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22937-3
Historical Romance, 2010
I have to admit, it’s been awhile since I’ve come across a debut effort brazenly marketed as a charming historical romance written by a Julia Quinn clone, as it’s more fashionable to be a Laurell K Hamilton clone nowadays. Sara Lindsey’s Promise Me Tonight is the first book in a series revolving around the Weston family. You are of course encouraged to draw favorable parallels to the Bridgerton family. However, there is currently one big difference between Ms Lindsey and Ms Quinn, if this book is anything to go by: Julia Quinn writes about adults; Ms Lindsey writes about little children pretending to be adults.
The plot is simple. Isabella Weston has decided to marry her neighbor James Sheffield ever since she was eight. James has lost enough family members that he decides that he will never love again. When Izzie is of legal age at last by contemporary standards, she starts flinging herself at James with embarrassing regularity and increasing desperation, like the twin sister of that demented creature from Fatal Attraction who is too softhearted to boil bunnies, while James starts running away and even considers joining the army. While sane women would take it as a sign that he doesn’t want them if he would rather join the army than to join body parts with them, Izzie is one of those insanely determined romance heroines who could tear apart the most insane Adam Lambert fan with her bare hands in a Kill For Your Idol Deathmatch thing if that means she will finally get to impale herself on the love muscle of her beloved forever and ever.
And that’s basically the story. Crazy woman chasing after and throwing herself at a man who can’t rush fast enough from her, with the man actually wanting her but being too big a baby to man up and surrender his body to his demented stalker.
While reading this book, I find myself wondering why I should care about this story. I mean, the heroine’s attraction to the hero is as shallow as they come: she was eight, for heaven’s sake, when this true love supposedly took seed in her creepily precocious head, and if that isn’t disturbing enough, she flings herself at him in such reckless abandon that, were he an immoral rogue, she’d have long met a tragic end and Henry James would be moved to write a sequel to Daisy Miller starring Isabella Weston. Where is the mature emotional rationale for this attraction of hers to him? I can’t find a convincing one here. Izzie behaves like a spoiled little girl here, throwing tantrums when she feels that she is being neglected by James or when James doesn’t read her mind and play out the romantic script she has written inside her head for the two of them. She also has a bizarre rescue complex when it comes to James. When she insists that she has to save him, I can only wonder what she wants to save this wealthy and healthy nobleman from. Syphilis? Or maybe he has to be rescued from skanky loose women who throw themselves at him at every opportunity… oh, wait.
As for James, oh, cry me a river. A healthy, rich, and privileged gentleman going boo-hoo-hoo about being pursued by a woman who is willing to put out for free in the name of a love she has set up, painted, and baptized all in her head from the age of eight – oh, my heart breaks at such a painful dilemma, I tell you.
Maybe the problem here is timing. There I am, being bustled in and out of the specialist’s clinic, tired and seeking an escape from the whole thing, and I just happen to have this at hand to read. The whole thing is too insipid and childish for me, a story of two dumb kids doing stupid things in the name of something that seems more like first crush than genuine love. I want something more from the book I read, even if it is written by someone the publisher is determined to brand as a Julia Quinn clone.