Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-91739-0
Historical Romance, 2016
Nathaniel Pembroke, the Marquess of Ravenwell, has half of his face badly burned in a fire. People shun him, ladies run off into the embrace of other men, and he’s all, “Oh, people don’t like me anymore; who cares about them anyway! I have my pets to keep my happy because they don’t judge me!” Of course, the fact that he acts like a constipated gorilla around people has nothing to do with them eventually moving out of his way when they see him coming. And yes – Ravenwell, pet hawks, a muscular build, long anime hair covering the damaged of his face… this guy is one walking cliché, I tell you.
Oh, and he is also prone to welling up in tears when he thinks of his sister and her husband, his BFF, being all dead and becoming worm food. He is the one who should have died! Because, you see, ruined face, so the world is poop and what not. Anyway, he is now the guardian of those two corpses’ adopted daughter, two-year old Clara. He does something sensible for once: he puts out a call for a governess.
Grace Bertram is Clara’s biological mother. Back then, she had no means to raise a daughter, especially one conceived under the circumstances she found herself in, and she has done her best to keep track of what happened to Clara ever since. When she graduates from her governess school and the opportunity to be with her daughter again is too good to let it slip by.
As you can guess, Grace soon brings warmth and sunshine into the house, while Nathaniel is all “NOOO, MY SCARS, MY ANGST, MY BROODING… NO! DON’T LET LOVE ENTER MY HEART… OH, IT HURTS, IT HURTS…. I WILL DIE, BUT I NEED TO SHAG YOU FIRST BEFORE I DIE!” like the big crybaby that he is. Seriously, the way he goes on and on, you’d think he’s a crippled ugly fellow living in hovel and being beaten by passers-by, instead of a well-bodied, healthy, wealthy fellow who just happens to be scarred in the face in a way that accentuates his sexiness (judging from the way the author describes the rest of him). He gets tiresome quickly with all that whining, blustering, self-flagellation, and “I’m no good for you, so I’ll shag you, kick you out, shag you back, kick you out again, etc” nonsense.
Grace is sweet and understanding, but is completely devoid of any self-preservation instinct. Watch as she blinks in addled amazement that people like her and think she’s awesome. Oh, she… deserving to be loved? She… deserving to be treated nicely? Oh, people say she is hot and sexy and awesome? Really? She is awesome? Amazing? Can we repeat that because she doesn’t believe that she has any self-worth. Are you sure she is amazing? Maybe you should tell her again. And again. Seriously, after a while, her wide-eyed “Oh my god, you mean I’m not a worthless piece of crap after all? Please reassure me again, and again, and again!” antics get tiresome too.
It also doesn’t help that the author has this bombastic, almost old-school melodramatic style of writing that only accentuates the hammy flailing of her characters.
The anger and the grief burning his chest had not eased – the hollow place where his shrivelled heart had struggled to survive this past nine years was still there, only now it was cavernous… a vast, stygian void.
Dude, he lives in a freaking castle-like house and he has more properties all over England! The only vast, stygian void in this story is where his brain is supposed to be. Apparently he spent nine years flailing melodramatically to the soundtrack of The Phantom of the Opera, and I’m not sure if it would more merciful to just put him down and let some happier fellow inherit his nice things. Between his one-note angst and Grace’s one-note wide-eyed need for a clue, this story feels like it is a million pages worth of annoying wretches making their problems out to be far more dire than they actually are. The Governess’s Secret Baby is like a bad opera – it keeps hitting all these high melodramatic notes non-stop, but the end result is way too dreary and I just want the whole thing to end.