Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3556-5
Historical Romance, 2015
Third time is the charm. Well, sort of. The Lady Hellion does not have the unintelligent use of “She’s a whore!” drama as conflict, but it has a heroine who has zero sense of self preservation or common sense. The end result is still a painful read.
Lady Sophia Barnes – not to be confused with the romance author, naturally – is a lady who is determined to make the world a better place by being an amateur Runner of sorts. She dons male disguises to roam through gambling dens, brothels, and more to rescue downtrodden ladies and what not. Unfortunately, her brush with the seedy side of life doesn’t seem to affect her in any way. She still behaves like a child with no impulse control, bizarrely unfamiliar with even the most mundane social conventions of her time. She’s like that creature who would gleefully press the red button even after you’ve warned her repeatedly that doing so would bring about great calamities. I mean, this is one woman whose idea of a playful joke is to fire a gun in the hero’s house. Because it’s funny! Why aren’t you all laughing with her?
Because Sophia doesn’t see why she should not run off alone in the dark, or doing all kinds of other nonsense without any Plan B or ways to defend herself should the need arises, this story sees our hero Damien Beecham, Viscount Quint, running all over the place trying to protect her. He has a crush on her, but he has all kinds of reasons why she’s too good for him. His father is crazy and so will he be crazy too one day – that’s his main argument, but he has many more up his rear end to be pulled out when the mood hits him. Given that he has all kinds of phobias and traumas, including being afraid to leave his house, it can be quite sad to see him trying so hard to get a hold of himself in order to chase after the unthinking heroine. And because he won’t tell her anything about his inner demons, she often mocks his “weaknesses” to his face. I think the author really wants her readers to dislike the heroine.
Because much of the story is concentrated on Sophia determinedly running from all escapade to another, with Quint having to either watch over her or rescue her, the romance is pretty underdeveloped. The attraction is already there, written in as a done deal, Worse, the author assumes that loading her characters with the more overused angst and issues from the romance genre equivalent to the DSM-5 is the same as characterization. Sophia and Quint are both defined by their many, many, many issues. Take these away and there’s nothing else to see, much less admire.
Also, because the story is all about retrieving the idiot heroine from danger, it reads like fragmented episodes rather than one smooth continuous story. There is no build up or anticipation, just madcap antics one after another like one overlong episode of The Road Runner cartoon. Bogging things down further are contrived inability on the characters’ part to communicate in even a halfway sensible manner, stubborn refusal to seek help when help is clearly available within close reach (the hero does this too, ugh), and plenty of informed attributes.
The Lady Hellion isn’t a romance as much as it is just tedious and dreary. The only consolation here is that, for a change, it is the heroine and not the hero who is the wretch for once so there is no painful “Whore! Slut! Liar!” drama flying around. Still, that’s not exactly something to be thrilled about.