Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3245-8
Historical Romance, 2014
Now, this is the first book I’m reading in Theresa Romain’s Holiday Pleasure series, and Season for Desire is actually the last book in the quartet. Don’t look at me, you can blame Book Depository for sending this book to me first when I’ve ordered the entire quartet. Now that I think of it, I regret ordering the entire quartet, because if this book is anything to go by, the author’s style is not exactly my cup of tea. But I’ll get into that later. For now, let me say that I may get some background details wrong, considering that I have to rely on assumptions to fill in the blanks, but I have a good excuse, so there.
The youngest daughter of a control freak duke, Audrina Bradleigh doesn’t get much parental guidance. As a result, she rebels like most silly young people would in a most predictable manner: she breaks the rules, takes a lover, et cetera. Unfortunately, the man she hooks up with is more attracted to dowry and decides to drug her and drag her off so that they can be married. Meanwhile, our American hero Giles Rutherford is in England with his father to search for his late mother’s “treasure” – that’s treasure in inverted commas because both men have no clue what they would find – when Audrina’s father hires them to catch Audrina and her lover in what seems like a willing elopement on her part. They do, and then they also find themselves escorting Audrina and the usual “saucy, feisty old lady” companion as they continue their hunt for the “treasure”. You see, her father decides to have Audrina vamoose in the country so that any resulting scandal won’t taint her sister’s upcoming wedding. Anyway, Audrina and Giles fall in love, the usual.
The author has a more “traditional Regency” style of writing here, which means she doesn’t pepper the narrative with too much contemporary, or more specifically, modern-day American jargon. While that is a good thing, the author also has her characters speak in arch and sarcastic manner peppered with big words that make the characters appear to be completely devoid of human empathy. Giles, especially, suffers from this. I don’t know if the author believes that Giles can get away with this because he is American – in romance novels, being American in a British setting makes you the equivalent of Jesus – but Giles is unnecessarily acerbic 24/7.
When a haggard servant meets up with them after clearly what seems like a tough effort to reach them, and the man bows, Giles’s response is to mock the man by asking aloud whether he should curtsy or bow. When someone expresses some memories of his late mother laughing, Giles says that he doesn’t remember anything of that sort, but hey, that’s because she’d been very sick for years, haw haw haw! When Audrina brings up that she is drugged, not drunk like Giles assumed at first, and Giles finally realizes that Audrina is confused, terrified, and has been abandoned by her father – who would rather spend time with the man that kidnapped her than with her, for propriety’s sake – Giles reaction is a glib apology that makes me wonder whether he has pure ice in his veins. He doesn’t even think kindly of his father, and his “affection” for Audrina seems more akin to a self-absorbed man’s occasional pat in the head for his favorite dog.
Audrina seems like an unconventional heroine that I could like, but she’s paired with a guy who is joyless to follow, and that joylessness can’t help rubbing off on her. Like Giles, Audrina also suffers from the “acerbic and sarcastic mode permanently on” syndrome, and she eventually seems to be more concerned about Giles’s more trivial pursuit than her own more serious predicament. There is always a “witty” quip for every occasion, no matter how inappropriate it is, so that these two characters never fail to come off like bratty emo teens dragged to a family vacation against their will and are determined to make sure that everyone knows it through sullen and sulky remarks.
Because I can never see the two main characters as believable people I’d care to see fall in love, I find myself turning the pages just to see whether there is anything that would reverse my opinion of these two. Alas, that is not to be.