Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-15517-4
Historical Romance, 2015
Lord Ywain Hemingford – you can call him Ives, since very few people pronounce “Ywain” correctly – is a hot barrister. In addition to being intelligent and capable, he is also well-connected, makes love like a stallion, is financially stable, as well as with a tendency to rescue damsels in distress. Oh, and there’s a heroine in this story, Padua Belvoir. She needs a lawyer to help stop the counterfeit charges pegged at her father, now in jail, as well as a hero to clean up the mess in her life. That’s basically where the author stops thinking anymore about her plot. Shall we go back to worshiping the awesomeness of the sexy Ives? Wishing desperately that we are Padua, lying on our back and letting the hero send us again and again to orgasmic paradise while basking in the knowledge that we don’t have to think, make decisions, or do anything equally strenuous on our fragile lady brains anymore? We bask discreetly, of course, because we are supposed to be independent, modern ladies after all.
As with the previous related book His Wicked Reputation, all effort is made to flesh out the hero worship elements, to the point that the heroine is a prop. A badly disguised prop, at that. Padua claims to be independent and intelligent, and Ives claims that her intelligence is one of the reasons that keep him going at her all night, but if I were to judge from Padua’s antics, I’d say that the author has a different definition of “intelligence” from mine.
When Padua comes to Ives – he is, of course, in a state of dishabille because heaven knows lightning will strike the author dead if she dares to deviate from the norm – she has no idea what her father did, so she is basically a babbling bobblehead in the scene. In fact, she spends considerable time declaring her intentions to reform prisons and what not before remembering her father. Not surprising, considering that she doesn’t talk to her father and only comes down to find him because her mother asks her to – but her father will be Padua’s hill to die on in this story. Never mind that the criminally absent-minded, neglectful, and gullible daddy – is there any other lovable kind of father? – doesn’t want her to help in any way, she will do that, even if it means going about it in a way that is comparable to her using a bulldozer to keep digging a hole to bury herself in.
And really, the author isn’t even subtle when it comes to poor Padua designed solely to keep putting herself in distress in order for Ives to demonstrate his heroic virtues. Our heroine insists on doing everything on her own even when she is the sort to try to add up one and one only to come up with eleven. She is a schoolteacher, and that’s her only lifeline, so watch and try not to cringe as she gets warned for sneaking out at night (to see Ives) and lending her feminist pamphlets to her young charges, only for her to go, whatever, daddy comes first. Yes, she soon loses her job and more because of her stubborn determination to act without thinking. I’d think her brush with feminism would put her in a position to be more pragmatic and sneaky when it comes to bending the rules of society on her sex, but no, that is just an excuse for the heroine to insist on doing whatever she wants, only to become a bigger victim when she has to face the consequences of her antics. How lucky for our feminist that the hero is here to bail her out!
Padua is also driven mainly by emotion. In their first meeting, when Ives points out that he’s been called to prosecute her father, she berates him for being a big meanie and calls him her enemy. Nice way to antagonize the man who is in a position to send her father to the gallows! When Ives has no idea what her father did or even whom her father is (she only mentions his name much later, as if that is an afterthought for her), and hence understandably hesitates to help her, she pegs him as a heartless douche for not immediately feeling sorry for her and agreeing to everything she asks for him. That’s basically how Padua works – our remarkable, intelligent, feminist heroine acts on emotions and expects everyone to immediately cater to her, and everyone who hesitates even for a second is the enemy. That is, until Ives shows her the pleasure she can get from his pee-pee, and then she starts deferring to the man attached to the pee-pee.
Which brings me to my next point. The only reason why Tall, Dark, & Wicked isn’t a total loss is that, once Padua has run out of ways to completely sabotage herself, the author mercifully stops the incoming barrage of stupid antics. Not that Padua becomes smarter, it’s just that she has no more ways to accelerate the dumb bunny antics of hers. No “I will run away from him because he doesn’t love me… eek, got caught by the bad guys!” nonsense, nothing of that sort. She spends more time having sex, pondering about whether she is just a notch on the hero’s bedpost, and occasionally acting like she’s the partner in crime of the hero. In other words, Padua stops being an “independent” person and embraces her inner barnacle, and hence, 99.9% of my agony stops too. The 0.1% still remains, because the only reason our heroine is tolerable is because she finally lets a man do all the thinking and doing for her. And all this while, the author insists that the heroine is – I quote – “loyal, good-humored, intelligent, uninhibited, passionate, accommodating”. I think I’m being mocked.
Also, Ives is adorable and super capable, but come on, that’s basically why this book is conceived. So yes, a job well done, and water is wet.
Read Tall, Dark, & Wicked if you think you will have no problems with the lopsided distribution of IQ points between the hero and the heroine. If you’re looking for a well-balanced romance in which the heroine is more than a by-the-numbers damsel in distress, though, you may be better off reading something else.