Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-92558-6
Historical Romance, 2017
A few years ago, Ellen Tatham met Max Colnebrooke in Egypt. He was dashing, handsome, and larger than life in her eyes. She was spirited, passionate, and hot in his eyes. They had a whirlwind thing, got married, and baked a bun in her oven – although he didn’t know about that last part at that time. Egypt soon became a politically unstable place to be, and during the confusion, Ellen decided that Max was a deserter and, naturally, didn’t bother to confront him. She left for England. Max, on his part, believed that she left with her new boinky boyfriend, so he decided to get all reckless and stuff, took up arms, and now has all kinds of survivor’s guilt and so, it’s all her fault.
So they meet again in London, when he, the spare, has become the new Duke of Rosenthal. She’s like, ooh, liar, liar… wait, so he tells her that he’s not a deserter? Okay, she believes him now (after a few minutes of conversation too – it’s so simple, see, and she’s SO BLOODY STUPID ARGH), so she will proceed to flay herself in guilt for not giving him a chance back then, causing him all kinds of stress and, while she’s at it, she’d also blame herself for his dying BFF getting all ready to die soon. It is her fault, people, so she will never deserve happiness with Max again! Besides, she knows that she will never find happiness with him, even if evidence points to the contrary, and if you pull off her nails one by one to force her to see sense, she’d probably love the pain anyway and beg you to cut off her toes next. Something tells me that Ellen can’t be trusted to even write down a grocery list – she’d take five years to do it due to her constant back and forth with herself, and the list would be near-illegible with all the wild scratched-out lines and stains of her tears and blood.
As for Max, you know, ooh, he took up arms, and all his buddies died under his leadership, so he will never love again, ooh ooh ooh. And besides, it’s all her fault, as he has clearly no choice but to do that bang-bang-bang thing with her out of his life. His comrades all died, not because he is a sucky leader or strategist, but because Ellen left him. Oh, and while he decides to clobber her into being his wife again, he can’t tell his dying BFF that he is married. Why? Because the author has a full-length book to write, so let’s make these two prolong their joyless moody moo-moos and wah-wahs until the word count is met.
Oh, and she has his brat. Fortunately, Max recognizes his features in that brat, so I’m at least spared of the usual “I knew it, my wife is a whore!” drama that tends to come with the territory.
I don’t know. All I can say is that the author certainly goes all out in making sure that every annoying thing associated with romances starring dim-witted gerbils who is better at self-flagellation than thinking is present here. The end result is a full force tale of morose nimrods deliberately doing their best to convince themselves and the other person that everything they do together is due to penance, responsibility, obligation, and other whiny wah-wahs. I find myself giving these two the evil side eye so often that my eyeballs start to ache.
Fans of the usual suspects (Mary Balogh, et cetera) may like this one better. I personally have no patience for Ellen and Max, as something tells me that she’d probably run away next Sunday when she thinks that he looks at her in a funny hateful way. That poor kid, he’s going to be pawn in the weird strange games between Mommy and Daddy for the next decade or so.