Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7016-0
Historical Romance, 2001
Hmm… shouldn’t it be The Mysterious Kiss instead of The Mystery Kiss? Never mind. This is traditional Regency author Judith A Lansdowne’s first full-length historical romance, am I right? And looking at the cover which is reminiscent of Julia Quinn’s To Catch an Heiress, I’m wondering if Zebra is marketing Ms Lansdowne as the new Julia Quinn. But I don’t believe Julia Quinn has never written a weepy heroine like Ms Lansdowne’s Fleur, Lady Marston.
Fleur is a widow of an older brutal man who used to terrorize her with a switch. A shipbuilder’s daughter, she is a social pariah despite her marriage to a peer. Still, despite her negative image of noblemen, she decides that the best path of happiness for her stepdaughter Althea (“Ally”) is by marriage to a peer. That’s a loving momma for you.
At the other end of town, Atticus Howard, the Earl of Hartshire, is enthralled by the shy, timid, and of course, who can forget innocent Fleur, and he is angered by the way Society gives her the cut. He plays her shadowy protector, cajoling and bullying everyone into treating Fleur nicely. He even steals a kiss – and Fleur now wonders who the mysterious man she has fallen in love with is.
That is, if she isn’t busy weeping her heart out. Eek, eek, eek. When she first sees Atticus – a man, eeuw – she can’t speak because she is terrified. Then she is rude to him, snapping and cutting at him. Then she is mooning over him. In between bawling her eyes out into her hankies. It’s quite pathetic. When someone gives her the cut, her eyes will water and she will flee into some corner to ugh ugh ugh. Worse, she has to speak while she is eek-eek-eeking her dignity down the drain. Hence, her eloquent “B-b-b-b-b-but t-th-th-they w-wh-wh-why – w-w-what – w-w-who…” It is enough to drive me up the wall.
But Atticus’ manly instincts are aroused faster than you can say “Wounded puppy alert!” He must protect this innocent woman! He must! I don’t see why. Another irritating thing is Fleur’s inability to complete a sentence in Atticus’s presence.
“But I – ”
“- a shipbuilder’s daughter!”
“B-b-b-b-b-b-but – ”
“I- I – I -“
When the heroine is not threatening to drown Regency England with her tears, The Mystery Kiss isn’t too bad a read. The hero is a decent guy, the stepdaughter is a cute if typical pretty daughter thing, and the token terrorist-on-the-street subplot is readable. But with such an irritatingly teary heroine who just doesn’t do anything but to rely on her man for everything, this one is just too annoying for words.