Warner Forever, $5.99, ISBN 0-446-61228-6
Historical Romance, 2003
Shari Anton’s The Ideal Husband is one of those historical romances where I finish the book not entirely sure when the book takes place. I assume, from the cover art, that this book is set in medieval times. But the characters behave like a Valley Girl and her jock boyfriend doing a bad historical reenactment for their history class demonstration and there is no authentic medieval elements in the setting. Normally I won’t worry too much about history if the story is enjoyable, but in this case, The Ideal Husband is written in a very dry style.
Starting off like a bad parody of Titanic, our hero Geoffrey Hamelin and our heroine Leah of Pecham are on a ship during a storm. Geoffrey is on his way to England to attend his sister’s wedding. Leah is going home to Pecham, Cornwall, after a disastrous attempt at running away with a boyfriend. The boyfriend is soon found in bed with a dirty and coarse prostitute and why the man would want to sleep with a dirty prostitute when supposedly fair and luscious Leah is ripe for the plucking is never explained. Maybe this scoundrel likes his women smart and brainy. Then the ship sinks and Geoffrey ushers Leah to the lifeboat. No “You jump, I jump!” thingie, though. No, Leah doesn’t run back to the ship so that they all die together, more the pity.
The storm magically disappears now that it has done Ms Anton’s bidding, and now Leah insists that the guys on the lifeboat go back to look for Geoffrey. Geoffrey is alive, but alas, he has amnesia! Leah has no choice but to take him with her, and she has no choice, the author assures us, when she tells everyone that he is her husband. And our heroine, obviously having learned nothing the first time around, soon embarks on an illicit affair with Geoffrey. Her second one, by the way, and no, this second time around, she isn’t thinking either.
The story is bewildering because in this book, Leah is only mildly concerned about her reception when she gets home, ruined beyond redemption, and this concern is only because she loves Daddy and oh, Daddy is so going to scold her when she gets back. No one seems to care that our heroine is ruined and Geoffrey certainly doesn’t. For a medieval story, this amazingly liberal attitude towards a woman playing fast and loose with her reputation is frankly… amazing. The main concern Geoffrey and Leah have is to figure out how they will have sex when he’s stuck in bed and suffering from all sorts of amnesia-related headcase maladies.
I don’t mind a campy historical that’s filled with deliberate anachronisms, provided the story is enjoyable. In this case though, Leah is like an impetuous silly chit concerned only with hot guys and silly frivolous antics and Geoffrey is like her overheated boyfriend. Unfortunately for this book, this “Valley Girl and her boyfriend transplanted in medieval era while trying to have sex behind Daddy’s back” story bores me silly. The characters stand out way too much as twentieth-century young adult novel characters stuck in a medieval historical.
Without a decent plot to go along with this, The Ideal Husband demands that I not only overlook non-existent historical flavor but also flat characters and silly plot to enjoy this book. It’s a tall demand to ask from a reader, and heaven knows, I’m far from the ideal reader to be so understanding in this case.