Avon Impulse, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-238053-1
Historical Romance, 2015
Well, for once the heroine isn’t the dumbest creature to have ever walked in the earth in a Vivienne Lorret story. Perhaps this is something to be celebrated over, but hold on to the confetti: the heroine is still quite the dunce at times, but the hero is the one who drives the clown truck in this story, so to speak.
Lucan Montwood thought he had finally nailed his hated father to the board and brought the man to justice, but instead, new evidence came up to point the big fat middle finger at Hugh Thorne, his father’s steward. Believing that Hugh was innocent, Lucan was at loss as to what to do, until an unusual ally showed up. Viscount Whitelock would arrange for the evidence to disappear and have Hugh sent to debtor’s prison instead, and Whitelock would also pay off the sum allegedly owed by Hugh. The catch was that Lucan would be indebted to Whitelock for this amount of money, and he must pay off the debt (ten thousand pounds) in three years or the evidence against Hugh would resurface. Also, this arrangement was be kept a secret between the two of them: if word got out about Whitelock’s involvement, the deal would be off.
Therefore, Lucan tries his best to make money by gambling and betting, and it seems like he’s about to finally hit pay day when he’s the last bachelor standing among his other buddies. These men all call themselves – without irony – “fallen angels”, which tells you all you need to know about them. He also watches over Hugh’s daughter, Frances, and this one is actually an easy task because she is so hot and she makes him hot.
Lucan watches her – and that is all he does, aside from flailing around trying to win at gambling tables to pay off the debt, because Frances is left to fend for herself and her useless father in the years since the man was released from prison. Frances isn’t as stupid as the author’s previous heroines, but she has an awe-inspiring knack of sabotaging herself. She finds a naughty booklet… oops, where did she put it? Oops! She needs money, so she refers some of her employer’s charges to a rival, allowing the rival to set up shop on the same street and causing her employer to take a hit in the profit – oops, fired. She enables her father, closing one eye to how he keeps getting money for his booze – oops, he gets arrested for his debts in front of the landlady, and oops, evicted. I tell you, you can put a bear trap a few miles from her, and she’d still find a way to step onto it.
If that is not bad enough, the poor darling keeps trusting the wrong people despite having been badly burned in the past by people who took advantage of her sweet and trusting nature. But this isn’t entirely her fault, although Frances can be awfully bad at seeing red flags waving before her, and she is also often too emotional and too stubborn to accept facts. If something comes up that she doesn’t agree with, she ignores it altogether and shoots the messenger. But really, she’s not the only one to blame for being the biggest fool that is also the last to know in this story. (And yes, she is literally the last to know in this book – in the last ten or so pages!)
You see, the hero can’t tell her anything. That’s fine, I understand that. But at the same time, Lucan insists on talking to Frances anyway, dropping cryptic sentences that only make him look like a big creep, while swaggering and behaving like a creepy stalker. Since he’s already trying to warn her away from Whitelock, why not just try to come clean instead of dropping cryptic lines in the most arrogant, insufferable manner possible? Also, he knows of her father’s gambling habit and general uselessness, but he believes that Frances needs to have that man around. No, she doesn’t – thanks to her father, she’s homeless as well as penniless. Perhaps it is a good thing that Whitelock, the bad guy, actually takes Frances under his wing, or the poor darling would probably has to sell herself on the streets. Lucan believes that he should act like a creepy high-handed alpha male who can’t be straight with the heroine, when his actions only cause the poor heroine to spiral down into hopelessness even faster. Hero of the year!
Also, I’m puzzled as to why Lucan can’t arrange for Frances to get some extra money – he claims to care for her, but he lets her flail around trying to be a martyr for her father, acting only when he gets all hot and bothered over Whitelock making a move on Frances.
Meanwhile, Frances doesn’t have any reason to fall for Lucan, under ordinary circumstances, since she claims to hate him and mistrust him so, so much. But because she dreams at night of them tumbling around like lovers in a Bollywood movie, and she gets hot and bothered in his presence, it’s love. You know these heroines – they have no impulse control, and if they get the hots for a guy, they must put out to the guy while claiming they are doing it out of love.
Oh, and the last chapter is all about her exclaiming that she can’t believe how stupid she had been up to that point. Well, that’s nice, although she’s just belaboring the truth in an unnecessarily melodramatic manner for something so obvious, and it’s a shame that the hero doesn’t have a similar epiphany. If she had been the village idiot, he was the village idiot’s drooling dog in comparison.
The best thing about The Maddening Lord Montwood is that the author is at least quite democratic this time around in handing out the stupid cakes to her main characters. The rest of the story still blows quite a bit, though, and when the payoff is the heroine realizing the obvious – SHE IS STUPID! OH MY GOD, IS THAT THE LIGHT? – it’s definitely time to ask for the check.