Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4767-6105-3
Historical Romance, 2015
Silver Deceptions was previously published back in 1997, back when Sabrina Jeffries was writing as Deborah Martin. Don’t worry, this particular edition has been revised, according to the author’s foreword, so in a way it’s brand new if you haven’t read the previous version.
We’re in 17th century England, and Annabelle Maynard is currently a hot up-and-coming actress on the stages of London. Actually, Annabelle has a plan. I know, a romance heroine with “plans” is usually a sign to run for the hills, and Annabelle isn’t bucking the trend anytime soon. You see, she saw her mother get hanged for killing Annabelle’s abusive stepfather. Annabelle blames her mother’s death on her real father, the man who knocked up and then abandoned her mother, forcing that woman to marry the man who went on to make both her and Annabelle’s lives hell. Her mother left behind certain clues, including a poem, which suggest that Annabelle’s real father is someone big in London.
Therefore, Annabelle is now in London, deliberately using the last name of the man said to be her real father. As the Silver Swan, she wants the man to bite on the bait she is sending out.
Which was why she planned to confront him with her bastardy, then rub her stage experience and scandalous adventuring in his face. Her unveiling would be public, a supper perhaps, to which she would invite all the gallants and nobles. Then she’d announce her real parentage.
Okay, that doesn’t sound too bad.
Then he would become the laughingstock of London for the bastard daughter he couldn’t control, who mocked his good name before everyone. To tread the boards was a shame no family could bear. And she would make sure that the association was an embarrassment beyond endurance.
I’m not sure what will happen if the man just laughs and says, er, no, he doesn’t know her and she doesn’t have any strong proof, so whatever. But I guess the heroine’s enthusiastic, and that’s all that matters? Even better, she doesn’t really mean to do that “scandalous adventuring” thing. She would only pretend to take lovers, and I’m sure London is brimming with volunteers to play that role. Given that she is also the type to go eek-eek-eek in horror at the idea of spending money on herself and what not, I have no idea how she is going to “send her creditors to him”, but hey, at least she’s yipping like an angry chihuahua and letting people know that she is easily excitable.
It gets better. She’s not going to have sex with another man out of wedlock – at least, until she meets our hero Colin Jeffreys, naturally – until she finds true love.
Besides, one day she hoped to have a real life somewhere in the country where she could just be herself. Where she would find a man to marry who would love her as she loved him. And when that day came, she meant to be chaste. She of all people knew how men could be if they discovered that their loves were not.
That makes sense, the last sentence, given that her experiences growing up in her abusive household shape her perspective, but still, good luck finding a man to marry her after she succeeds in convincing the world that she is a trollop actress who sleeps with men every two hours. Something tells me she’s not the kind of person to think things through before acting.
Given that she has put out the bait, into her life comes Colin, the Marquess of Hampden, who is clearly interested in her and even tells her that he knows of the family who shares her last name. Annabelle decides that she must let Colin sniff around her so that she can subtly investigate what he knows about the man that could be her father. Would you be shocked if I tell you that Colin is immediately on to her efforts to interrogate him? Even better, he knows that she looks, walks, talks “like a virgin”, maybe because back in those days virgins are genetically programmed to speak and behave in a certain pattern until they are liberated from their maidenhead.
Annabelle doesn’t even think of what should be obvious: Colin is sent by her father to investigate her motivations. Okay, so she sends out the bait, all of a sudden this guy shows up claiming to know her family… no, he’s just someone with no other motives, don’t be silly. Oh, and she can’t control her libido when she’s with Colin, so ooh, she is now conflicted. How can she use him to discover her father’s whereabouts when she needs to change her diapers every time he touches her here, there, and everywhere?
Okay, Silver Deceptions sound like train wreck, but here is the good news: if you can wade past the first half or so of this book, when the heroine is channeling ten different flavors of car crash, things get better – a lot. Annabelle realizes that she’s basically an idiot for embarking on a plan that she clearly has no fortitude to carry out to the end, and in the process allows herself to be… well, herself. The real Annabelle is a far more likable character, and she even surprises me with occasional moments where she is far more aware of a situation than I’d give her credit for. The author manages to allow this new and improved Annabelle to make her appearance in a graceful transition of sorts – I never once feel that someone has kidnapped the old Annabelle and replaced her with this obviously better clone. Instead, I have this feeling that Annabelle stops trying so hard to be someone she’s not, and as a result, she is more comfortable with dealing with various situations in ways that she is clearly better suited for.
Colin is actually the more “problematic” character of the two in that he often belittles or makes light of Annabelle’s circumstances. But that’s because he has no knowledge of Annabelle’s past for the most part. Even then, I suspect some readers may not be happy in how he still looks at things in a way that can be interpreted as him still affecting a “There, there, you poor woman!”-type patronizing or condescending attitude when it comes to her wanting justice for her mother. I’m okay with this, as he is a man in the 17th century, after all, and nothing in this story truly challenges the way he thinks about gender roles in his time. He does the right thing to protect Annabelle, however, and I feel that these two do have a genuine kind of affection that manages to develop despite the odds. I wish the author has toned down some of the more melodramatic declarations of love, though – as much as I like melodrama, there are times when Colin sounds far more theatrical than the characters who actually tread the stage, shudder.
Anyway, Silver Deceptions has a second half which is far better than the first half would lead me to believe. I’d give the second half a four oogie score and the first half a two. Averaging those two scores means that this baby lands squarely in the three-oogie territory. Still, it’s one of the better three-oogie books I’ve read in a while.