Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-5011-4444-8
Historical Romance, 2016
Brace yourself for the synopsis, this is going to be a painful one. Delia Trevor’s brother Reynold committed suicide after losing a house at the gambling table. Delia never tells anyone, even her brother’s widow Brilliana, that he took his own life; she lets it be known that he died in an accident. Doesn’t want the scandal to ruin the family’s good name, understandably. But Reynold left behind a note to Delia, claiming that he had been cheated by some lord with a sun tattoo at the gaming tables. No, really.
A part of me wishes that Reynold did that as one last bloody joke on Delia, but alas, the author takes this story very seriously. So no, the whole thing is not a sick joke to let Delia make a fool of herself. Delia has never wanted to marry – same old story about men being controlling arses that will only cripple her freedom to do… something, whatever that is, as our heroine doesn’t seem to have a hobby other than being an imbecile – but she also knows that, with nothing but debts to deal with, Brilliana will settle for the first rich bloke she can find in order to get the money coming in. No, marriage is the worst thing that can ever happen to a woman, so Delia must prevent that! She will, instead, pretend to agree to her aunt’s request to have a Season in London, during which she would dress up as a lad and sneak off into brothels and gambling dens in order to stare at men’s wrists and arms to see which one has a sun tattoo. I wish I’m kidding, but no.
What will she do when she finds the sun-tattooed asshole? She will blackmail him into returning the property he cheated from Reynold, for course! Despite the fact that she has no intention to reveal that Reynold offed himself, she would threaten to expose the asshole as a cheat if he doesn’t pay! And if that asshole laughs at her face… well, Delia never thinks that far.
Unfortunately, someone who knows her who also knows our hero, Warren Corry, the Marquess of Knightford, asks him to watch over her before Delia meets her well-deserved brutal end in the slums of London. You see, Delia is not subtle. Everyone knows she’s acting weird, and this friend hopes that Warren can find out what is eating away at Delia. So that’s basically this story. Delia’s all “I WANT TO BE FREE TO DO STUPID THINGS, DON’T ANY BOSSY HATEFUL MEN TRY TO STOP ME!” and “MEN ARE ALL BASTARDS WHO WILL NEVER TREAT A WOMAN RIGHT… AND SINCE I WILL NEVER MARRY, I WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH THE HERO IN THE NAME OF I WILL NEVER MARRY BUT I AM HORNY… OH, OH, HE’S MAKING ME… OH! OH! OH! NOW THAT I FINALLY GOT PLUGGED, I’M IN LOVE AND I WANT HIM TO LOVE ME BACK RIGHT NOW!” You know, the same old broken record.
But my goodness, the heroine! Talk about zero self-awareness. She will flail and complain that everyone keeps secrets from her, as if they are underestimating her intelligence, but her actions all suggest that these people are right to keep her in the dark as much as possible. Even for a heroine by this author, Delia is in a special class by herself when it comes to pure moron in action. Her plan is unworkable and doomed to fail, and best of all, the author knows it. The hero remarks on this, as do various secondary characters. In fact, Warren wonders aloud why Delia is doing all the dirty work instead of Brilliana, and Brilliana is not happy when she learns that Delia has been keeping things from her, things that Brilliana has all the right to know.
Thus, the author has created a story where the heroine is set up to flail around like an epileptic idiot trying to solve a trigonometry equation, and then – this is the most bewildering part – offers no mellowing or growing up as part of the heroine’s character arc. She’s just loved, I suppose, for the damage in her mental faculties. And this is despite the fact that the author herself does not agree with the heroine’s actions, and lets me know through the other characters’ conversations and thoughts. So, what is the author really trying to do here? Write for readers who enjoy a dumb heroine in action? The whole thing feels oddly insincere, disingenuous.
The story, weirdly enough, ends up invalidating all justifications set up by Delia for her nonsensical, disastrous plan. Delia’s reluctance to confide in anyone, instead opting to carrying out a spectacularly dumb plan and martyr herself in the process, is the main reason why the story is as long as it is, as a simple discussion with Brilliana would have cleared a lot of questions that plague our heroine’s pea-sized brain. Trusting Warren to help her out would have also prevented much of Delia’s flailing around. But because Delia wants to be a one-man Destiny’s Child where she’s the only Beyoncé in the house, screw Michelle and Kelly, when it comes to saving the world, the mess goes on for as long and as tortuous as it is.
And then, there are the head-scratchers. Delia’s aunt is willing to settle £1,000 on her as a dowry… so Delia couldn’t ask the aunt for financial assistance for Brilliana and that brat Silas? Can’t they discover the identity of the new owner of the house that Reynold lost, by waving some pound notes to the lawyers involved to loosen up their lips? Property transfer involves paperwork by lawyers, after all, no? That seems like a faster and safer way to find out who cheated Reynold instead of risking her life running around in brothels and gambling holes to gape at men’s hands.
Anyway, the hero is okay, and the rest of the story is standard trope in action. Pick any historical romance of this sort – heck, pick any random book in the author’s back catalogue – and you will find many similar elements played out in the same way. But my goodness, the plot! The heroine! The Danger of Desire is just pure stupidity in motion, and despite the author doing all she can to tell me that the heroine is a high grade dumbass, she has the heroine get a happy ending without paying for all her whining, reckless antics, and ass-stupid way of making any situation worse with her inability to think or do anything halfway intelligent. Seriously, what is all this nonsense?