Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-056098-3
Historical Romance, 2005 (Reissue)
Some Enchanted Evening was Christina Dodd’s debut hardcover and boy, I am so glad that I bought this book only when it was reissued in paperback!
From all appearances, this story is like a twist of sorts on the Sleeping Beauty myth, where three princesses are separated when their kingdom was seized ruthlessly by those disgusting anti-monarchy people. Their kingdom is now back in the rightful hands of the Dowager but the three daughters, sent to England by their grandfather when the revolution began, need to be told to come home. The emissary involved is a traitor but he has a change of heart when he realizes that he can’t bear to kill those princesses. He does what a good human being would do: tell the two younger princesses to scram because bad people are out to kill them before magnanimously deciding to protect the eldest princess on his own. Of course, it will be better, I suppose, if he helps the three princesses get home but if that is the case, there won’t be this book or the two coming out after this book, Ms Dodd will have to start peddling cosmetics to put food on her table, and won’t that be a pity indeed.
Okay, so now the two younger princesses, Clarice and Amy, are reduced to selling fake beauty cream as a means of making a living. Because Clarice is so beautiful, she always finds lecherous men wanting a bite out of her. When this men include a bitter magistrate, she and Amy have to leave town and cross over to Scotland hoping to start a new life there. She and Amy have a plan: they decide to announce that Clarice is a princess and win the hearts (and money) of the folks with a sob story about her being a princess fallen on hard times and needing money. Unfortunately, the Earl of Hepburn isn’t as absent as the two ladies would have liked. Robert MacKenzie refuses to believe that Clarice is a genuine princess and therefore decides to use this “actress” as a pawn in his revenge scheme against his enemy. Of course, because this scheme involves he and Clarice spending a lot of time together in his manor, he ends up falling in love with her.
I don’t know. There is this annoying inconsistency running through the story that simply distracts me and drives me crazy. Clarice and Amy are afraid that the assassins on their tails will one day catch up with them, but they announce to all and sundry in Freya Crags that she is a princess. And then, having done that, Clarice will start worrying that people will know that she is a princess at the most bizarre moments in the story, such as when she has to throw a party in the manor for Robert. What does she expect? That people are all like her and other silly romance heroines out there and don’t know the meaning of the word “gossip”?
The romance is half-baked, to say the least. The first love scene is true to the style of this author – some readers will like it, others will scream “Forced seduction – eeeeuw!”, and some, like me, may roll up their eyes at how the author has to resort to forcing two chemistry-free characters to start making out in this manner. Clarice seems to be very self-conscious about being a princess but her conscientiousness is selective. She doesn’t mind having sex with Robert but she thinks that she and he aren’t meant to be together because she has responsibilities as a princess of Beaumontagne. Like too many romance heroines who often find excuses to be a martyr, Clarice often contradicts herself and compromises her own self-imposed principles for the sake of letting the hero shag her only to then punish herself by denying herself the love of the hero.
Robert is a typical hero of this author – arrogant, obnoxiously so at times, forceful, doesn’t take no for an answer, and so sweetly a mush when he finally admits that he’s in love with the heroine. Unfortunately, he’s a cardboard character with some contrived baggage (he fears that he’ll go crazy like his father and therefore he must never ever marry) that fail to make him come off as even a little deep as a character.
The lazy use of his and her baggage solely as a means to prolong the relationship blues (but never, of course, getting in the way of sex scenes) taints this book with an impression that this book is written in a rushed and half-hearted manner. Ms Dodd spends about twenty pages describing a poignant and pivotal moment in the blossoming stages of the relationship but prefers to spend the rest of the book concentrating too much on the characters having sex as opposed to having a relationship.
Ms Dodd presents a very readable story here but Some Enchanted Evening is too heavy on sex and too light on emotions. The revenge plot is quite ridiculous because the villain turns out to be ridiculous, the characters’ internal conflicts are transparent contrivances just to prolong their agony (but don’t worry, they’ll still boink in the meantime to keep readers happy), and the characters are flat as a result. There are too many things about this book that feel underwritten, all the way to the abrupt happy ending, that cause it to come off as very lacking compared to some of the author’s better books in the past.