Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-14762-9
Historical Romance, 2010
A loose sequel to Ravishing in Red, Provocative in Pearls sees Madeline Hunter returning to familiar territory: the heroine is a twit and the hero is an insufferable donkey. I hope you are enamored of this author’s trademark characters of a few books now because the plot revolves entirely about the heroine being a twit and the hero being a donkey.
Verity Thompson is married to Grayson, the Earl of Hawkeswell. Despite the fact that he’s tall, gorgeous, and hot as sin, she was initially against the marriage because… I don’t know, she wanted to be Wonder Woman and fly an invisible plane or something, I guess. But her nasty cousin-cum-guardian told her that he would cause trouble to some folks dear to her if she didn’t sacrifice her virtuous honeypot on the altar of matrimony. After she had proceeded to marry Hawkeswell, she learned that her cousin had betrayed her and she also suspected Hawkeswell of being part of the heinous plan. So she ran off, faking her own death and hiding out in the same unusual shelter for lost women that the heroine in the previous book hanged out at. What, you expect a romance heroine to be clever and run off to somewhere far, far away, like Siberia?
So, now her cover is blown because Hawkeswell had seen her when he and the hero of the previous book came to fetch Audrianna. Hawkeswell is angry. In the last two years, because of Verity vanishing without a body to confirm her death, Hawkeswell couldn’t touch a single cent of her money. His lands are wasting away, he can’t buy the women of his family expensive stuff… and yet he spent the last two years sleeping with skanky women less virtuous than Verity. Maybe they were giving him pity shags, because I hear those baubles for mistresses can get costly.
So, this is pretty much the story. Hawkeswell refuses to let Verity go and he will make her obey him like a dog.
“You may think that I am a scoundrel, Verity, but I am also your husband. And if there is a game at work here, I have already won.”
Meanwhile, despite enjoying the hero’s probing of his various digits and love muscle into her body, Verity will go, “No! No marriage!” as she repetitively runs away or tries to sell Hawkeswell this plan of hers that will let her run off to join Mystery, Inc and let Hawkeswell get her money. I mean, truly, Verity is going to run off and live under a new identity somewhere and she is definitely too virtuous to sell herself for the almighty pound, so it’s not like she needs money of her own or anything like that.
Repeat, repeat, rinse. He tells her that she is his wife and she will do what he says, she will do something silly as part of the Avon Romantic Boyfriend Test, and they will repeat the tango until I feel dizzy just watching them.
Meanwhile, I find myself recalling Sommerhays’s words to Hawkeswell early in the story – Sommerhays wonders aloud why Hawkesfell doesn’t apply his famed skills of seduction to turn Verity into a putty. Why indeed? An obvious answer would be that this story would only be 50 pages long if Hawkeswell ravished Verity into a speechless stupor of obedience (romance heroines are too virtuous for diamonds and pearls remember – they will settle instead for a quick shag in the backseat in the name of true love or saving the world). Heck, the story would probably be only 30 pages long if he made an effort to woo Verity by telling her that he would burn kittens everywhere in a giant pyre and blame their deaths on her if she insisted on refusing to heel and obey his orders. But no, he would walk around doing everything but seducing her while she would put up futile and feeble attempts to assert herself.
It’s hard to take the hero seriously when, as a supposedly successful rake, he displays the charms and finesse of a caveman armed with a club. It’s hard to care for the heroine when it’s obvious that despite her attempts to stand up to the hero, she puts out without effort and it’s clear that she doesn’t know what she wants. He’s hot, she likes it when he touches her there and everywhere, and, really, that guy is only looking for a dog that can bring him money and let him have sex without being arrested for bestiality. What does Verity really want? She doesn’t seem to know, and therefore, she comes off like some silly twit who is just making noise.
By the last page of this book, I have to check my trust Merriam & Webster to find out whether I have somehow become confused about the meaning of “seductive” because I have no idea why the hero with all his barking glory can be considered as such. Well, the dictionary agrees with me. Maybe this is another case of me being out of touch with the appeal of the domineering daddy figure in the romance genre.