Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-074057-4
Historical Romance, 2005
From her dedication in the foreword, Cathy Maxwell lets drop that The Price of Indiscretion was written during a difficult phase in her life. Perhaps this will explain why this book is short and the ending seems rushed and abrupt. However, the fact does remain that this book is just an average book from the author. This is a pity, since the premise is not a typical overused Regency spy/comedy story.
In this story, Miranda Cameron and her sisters are down on their luck after their father’s death. They are currently living in New York, with the eldest sister Charlotte making plans for the sisters’ future. Since they are granddaughters of an English earl and Miranda is very beautiful, Charlotte has made plans with an expatriate, Lady Overstreet, to send Miranda to London and marry someone rich and titled. That way, Miranda can send over for Charlotte and the youngest sister Constance and they can all breathe a little easier, finance-wise. Lady Overstreet, who fled London because her late husband left her in debts, will help Miranda debut in Society in return for her cut of the money pie. However, there is a bump in this plan: when she was a teenage girl, Miranda fell in love with Alex Haddon, half-Shawnee and half-British, but that came a brutal end when her father flogged Alex when he asked for her hand in marriage. You see, Miranda’s mother was killed in a Shawnee raid, so when Alex showed up in full Shawnee costume, you can imagine how the grief-stricken father would react. Alex stumbles upon Miranda when she is about to board a ship to London. Now a rich co-owner of a shipping fleet, Alex realizes that he still carries a torch for Miranda. She’s determined to marry someone with money as well as a title, so what is Alex to do?
This is a story purely fueled by internal conflicts, namely Miranda’s loyalty to her sisters as well as bizarre guilt trip that will only make sense if I am to assume that she has some romance heroine guilt complex that only fellow heroines can understand. Anyway, what I really like about this is that Ms Maxwell doesn’t cut Alex any slack. Readers, I do have to caution you all: Alex behaves monstrously in this book, being incessantly selfish from start to finish that this book would have hit the wall if Ms Maxwell dares to insinuate that Alex is anything but a jerk. Fortunately, Ms Maxwell has a beautiful scene where Lady Overstreet minces no words and cuts Alex piecemeal, pointing out his hypocrisy, selfishness, and brutal obliviousness on how he is ruining Miranda’s life by thinking only about himself. Also, Miranda is not blind to Alex’s faults and for a long time she is a sympathetic heroine. Her actions and decisions are actually very stereotypical of a romance heroine wanting love and other nonsense, but Ms Maxwell goes a little further than merely following the formula and giving me a deeper insight into why Miranda does the things she does. And I find myself understanding Miranda’s actions, even if I don’t agree with some of them.
Unfortunately, Ms Maxwell drops the ball in the last quarter of the story. At this point, it is as if she has no idea what to do with her story anymore and just wants to end it quickly. For a while now, Miranda is ruining the last of my goodwill by acting like an impulsively idiotic nitwit, veering from wanting to marry some Duke or running off with Alex on impulse that she strings both men along. That is not very nice, really. Then all of a sudden Miranda decides that she wants to marry Alex and whee, she runs off with Alex and everyone happens to agree with that turn of event because they too want the story to end quickly. It’s a cop out resolution after all the work the author has put into her story. I am expecting some painfully honest heart-to-heart talk or something else that these two people Alex and Miranda really need to move beyond their past, but instead all I get is a rushed ending – “It’s love, wheeeeee, bye-bye baby!”
Normally, if the book has a good resolution, I’d say that readers should bear with some of Alex’s more obnoxious and even offensive actions and words in this book. As it is, Ms Maxwell does make Alex shrink down to a height of three inches for his infuriating hypocrisy and his temerity to assume that everything has to be about him, but unfortunately, there is no satisfying emotional resolution to the romance here. Just a half-baked book that could have been so good to read under better circumstances, I’m afraid.