Signet Eclipse, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21706-3
Historical Romance, 2005
I like Lydia Joyce’s style. She and I can get along very well if she will actually give her heroes an adequate reason to go along with their often cheesy over-the-top emo histrionics. Our hero is Sebastian Grimsthorpe. “Lord Grim”. Get it?
I initially assumed that The Music of the Night is some kind of retelling of The Phantom of the Opera but it turns out that the only similarity shared between Sebastian and Erik is a dysfunctional tendency to flail around melodramatically in epileptic proportions in the shadows and what-not. Sebastian, you see, is angry. He believes that Bertrand de Lint raped his twelve-year old daughter. During an orgy that Sebastian threw in his house, the same house where his daughter was also staying at. Common sense should have told him that holding orgies in the same house that he keeps his daughter is just asking for trouble, but at any rate, Sebastian wants revenge, especially when a carriage accident nearly kills him shortly after his confrontation with Bertrand.
After faking his death, Sebastian lies in wait in Venice with a trap for Bertrand. However, he does not count on the companion to Bertrand’s mother, Sarah Connolly. Sarah has scars on her face due to smallpox. Because Sebastian’s housekeeper told him that a pock-marked whore apparently distracted her during the fateful day when young Adela was raped (and we all know the housekeeper will never lie under the circumstance, of course), Sebastian naturally concludes that Sarah is the whore in question and sets out to seduce her as way to get back at Bertrand. Sarah, however, is special, bonds with him, et cetera, so he has his doubts, although that doesn’t stop him from going all the way and ruining Sarah completely.
In fact, if Sarah doesn’t have the guts to confront Sebastian after her ruination, he would have never faced her after the incident because he is a coward that way. Even then, he then sets his sights on ruining another young woman, as if Sarah isn’t enough as a collateral damage in his revenge scheme. Sarah is understanding, however, and forgives him without even him asking her to because she, for all the character study the author affords her, is essentially someone with serious self-esteem issues that she’d rather be loved by someone like Sebastian than to be not loved at all.
What really gets to me is that Sebastian, for all his bluster, targets two innocent women in his revenge scheme instead of being a man and shooting Bertrand right in the forehead. Even more obnoxious is how he is basing his revenge scheme on flimsy evidences and assumptions. Seriously, when Sarah tells him that she’s the companion, not the whore, he’s like, “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that? Oh I know, I don’t want to imagine that I can be wrong so I acted like a big chicken and left her to the mercy of Bertrand!” When I think of how Bertrand tries to sexually assault her after her ruination by Sebastian, Sebastian should count himself lucky that Sarah is so desperate to be loved because were I Sarah, he would soon be the soprano version of the Phantom of the Opera. Sebastian isn’t even taking revenge for Adela, if you ask me, because if he wants to do just that, he would have hanged himself in the first page of this story. He’s just taking revenge because he would rather be angry with someone than to confront the true extent of his own guilt.
And ugh, when the villain is revealed, it turns out that Sebastian is completely, totally wrong, and should he be allowed to go through with his revenge, at least two innocent people would be collateral damages because Scholar of the Year here is too much of a chicken to go after the object of his enmity. I don’t know why Ms Joyce doesn’t let Sebastian be right at least once, because the fact that he is ultimately wrong, wrong, wrong makes this guy a complete waste of carbon material. The only thing Ms Joyce does that feels right to me is how Sebastian tells Sarah that he loves her because she tells him whenever he is in the wrong even if they both know that he will hate her for it. If he is smart, he will just be quiet and sit pretty in the corner while letting Sarah do all the thinking for the two of them.
Sebastian is without doubt one of the most stupid morons I have come across in a romance novel. All he is good for is to make all kinds of dramatic posturing about his miserable existence. I’m also annoyed that he’s away plotting revenge and chasing after shadows in Venice when his daughter would probably be better off with him by her side. I will probably like Sarah more if she is paired with a different kind of hero because apart from her spineless adoration of Sebastian, she’s a likable heroine with depths that make her a refreshing change from the usual bluestocking spinster heroines out there. Needless to say, I think she is way too good for Sebastian.
At any rate, The Music of the Night, with its supremely hateful moron of a hero, is not going to be getting my two thumbs up. Rather, here are my two middle fingers to Sebastian. This book won’t change my mind that Lydia Joyce is an author whose future works that I will probably have no problems enjoying, but all the same I’ll just pretend that this book never happened. See? I can be just as “understanding” and “forgiving” as Sarah sometimes.