Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3228-1
Historical Romance, 2015
I am atrocious at card games, but if The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress is a high stakes game, I am confident that I will beat the author. This is because she reveals all her cards without me having even to ask please.
“American girls gone wild in England” is a common story line in historical romance, and this is Victoria Alexander’s spin on that one. American heiress Lucy Merryweather didn’t marry the man everyone in her family wanted her to (he got his own story, here) but she doesn’t mind, as her feelings for Jackson Channing is more brotherly than anything else. She followed Jackson’s mother to visit that man in the previous book, and now that she is in England, she doesn’t feel like going back yet. You see, she recently inherited a large sum of money from her late great-aunt Lucinda (whom Lucy is named after), and Lucinda also left her a journal full of the things Lucinda wanted to do but never could in her lifetime. Lucy decides to use that list to plan her next few weeks in London: she’d carry out the items on that list as a tribute to Lucinda.
Jackson isn’t amused and decides to hire a PI to watch over her. He tells her this, and Lucy assumes that the handsome Cameron Fairchild, who isn’t very good at tracking her without being seen, is that man in question. She can live with him trailing after her – in fact, she may as well make the most out of the situation. She and her companion are both women, after all, and having a man around to be their bodyguard makes sense. The thing is, Jackson’s PI is actually Lucy’s companion. Cam is a writer who wants to write a series based on Lucy’s antics in England in order to win a bet with his father, the Duke of Roxborough. When he falls for Lucy and she he, will his real identity eventually tear them apart?
The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress is probably doomed from the start, because of the checklist nature of the plot. This story sees Lucy going from one episode to another, to tick off items on her list, so there is a disjointed, somewhat fragmented feel to this story. The main characters’ deceptions also force them to isolate themselves from their friends and family, which can be problematic as ensemble comedy is clearly the author’s forte and this one doesn’t capitalize on that. Without adorable characters to balance them or to puncture their ego substantially, Lucy and Cam end up far less interesting than they could have been. Lucy seemed like an intelligent lady who knows what she wants when she showed up in the past, and she was still that lady in the first few chapters of this book, but she soon transforms into a more standard dingbat type who is more naïve and earnest than anything else. Cam is actually dense to a groan-inducing degree – that guy is far less clever than he imagines himself to be, and it’s a shame that there are not enough characters here poking fun at his hubris to balance out his more foolish moments.
The story is also disappointing because there is more telling than showing here. I’m told that Lucy is intelligent. Well, maybe, when the moon is full, I guess. I’m told by Cam that he really likes Lucy because they have such wonderful conversations together. I’d have to take him on his word because all that wonderful stuff takes place off-stage, so to speak. The author spends a lot of time on getting the list all ticked up, so to speak, and this isn’t a very good thing because the items on that list are standard “rebellious heroine gone wild” stuff done many times before. You know the drill: visit a men’s club, wear shocking clothes, kiss some guy, put out to some guy without thinking about potential repercussions… the usual. As a result, there isn’t much here to make up for the lack of romantic moments that work.
But the biggest problem with this story is its predictability. The author gives everything away from the get go. She constantly has Cam going, oh, nobody would guess that his stories are based on Lucy. Gee, what will happen during the more dramatic moments of this story, I wonder. He keeps saying that he’d tell her who he really is when the time is right, and color me shocked – shocked – that he ends up telling her after they’ve boinked and she proceeds to feel used and humiliated. Even the items on the list act as grand spoilers for the get go. A predictable trope-heavy story is one thing, but the author chooses to plant heavy signs, so to speak, announcing the presence of these tropes way ahead of time. Like I’ve said, the very structure of this story probably doomed it from the very beginning. Maybe things could have been much more interesting if the items on the list had been more interesting than the laundry list of tropes it turned out to be? I don’t know, but I do know that this story isn’t very interesting, especially when compared to the author’s last few books.