Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-345-46122-3
Historical Romance, 2005
Jillian Hunter’s The Love Affair of an English Lord suffers from the same problems that the previous book in the “Let’s See How Long I Can Make My Book Titles!” series: the characters are very likable (even with the heroine being an adventurous hoyden sort) but the plot looks like it needs a few more hours in the metaphorical oven before it’s even half-baked. It is frustrating to read a book with such fun and enjoyable characters stuck in a plot that suffers from halfhearted pacing and a suspense that peters out into a disappointing climax because those characters deserve better. I think I deserve better as well.
Lady Chloe Boscastle, who was last seen in the previous book as the Boscastle daughter determined to be as much an adventurous rake as her brothers, is banished to Chistlebury, a rustic countryside village, after she was caught kissing a man in public. That doesn’t stop her from doing the same thing to an attractive man she meets with a man whom she later learns to be the Viscount Stratfield. Before Chloe can take her adventures to new – and moronic heights – however, he dies a few weeks later. No, it’s not because of Chloe, in case you’re wondering. She’s not that bad, honestly.
To Chloe’s curiosity, the Viscount doesn’t just remain dead after his murder. The man’s ghost is said to be haunting the countryside, looking for the villain who did him in and seducing women he meets along the way. Something tells me that the people of Chistlebury really needs a hobby – maybe they should get Chloe to start a smuggling ring or something. Why not? They always do in this kind of books. Chloe doesn’t really believe those stories of the randy vengeful ghost but to her surprise, one night she finds the Viscount in her bedroom, or more specifically, inside her lingerie closet. It turns out that our hero, Dominic Breckland, didn’t really die: he faked his death to throw off whoever it is that wants him dead and now he hopes to discover who this person is before the person manages to kill him. He is currently injured after a fight with this villain and needs a place to stay. If he has to seduce Chloe (not all the way, of course, because he’s not that kind of guy) to get her to let him stay in her place and hide out for a while, he’ll do it. But the kiss they shared previously leaves plenty of lingering attraction that will complicate matters.
This is one of those stories where the villain is behind the deaths of people in both the families of Chloe and Dominic (the magical catch-all villain, if you will) and the mystery comes to the forefront only when the author needs to use it as an excuse to get our lovebirds’ relationship moving. Which is to say, it becomes very obvious that the author doesn’t really care to create a suspenseful subplot, only to use it as a contrivance to escalate our lovebirds’ relationship. Because the suspense is uninteresting and the author doesn’t inject any sense of urgency into it, it is hard for me to care whether the hero will be in any danger, since it’s obvious that he won’t be and the author doesn’t even try to pretend otherwise.
Chloe is thankfully restrained for the kind of heroine she is and she doesn’t run wild like an imbecile. Instead, she is a heroine with an enjoyable sense of humor and adventure, making her a good match for Dominic (as opposed to being his opposite). Dominic has this reputation as a hedonistic rake but he’s actually a nice guy with a healthy sense of mischief, charm, and a generous amount of sense of humor. He and Chloe are a delightful couple. They really deserve a better story than the dull one Ms Hunter sticks them into.
If the first book in the series comes off like a rushed job, this book gives me this impression that Ms Hunter started working on it immediately after she has FedExed the last book off, downed a huge cup of coffee, and shoved her middle finger at the photo of her editor for sticking her with this kind of deadlines. Hopefully the next book will be more well-executed than this one.