Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4391-7546-0
Historical Romance, 2012
The Revenge of Lord Eberlin is the second book in Julia London’s series The Secrets of Hadley Green. Surprisingly enough, it can stand alone pretty well, although lazy old me will just refer you to the review of the first book if you are new to the series and wish to make sense of the synopsis of the story. I don’t wish to unload pages of exposition on you, after all.
By the way, I am going to dissect this book a bit in order to explain better my thoughts about it, so some of the things here can be considered spoilers. Do hit the back button if you don’t want to be exposed to these nasty things.
So, in this book, the mystery of the tragic deaths in Hadley Green ten years ago will be unraveled further as Lily Boudine, the new Lady Ashwood, continues to clash with Tobin Scott, the son of the hanged woodcarver who has now bought himself a Danish title to supplement the mountain of money that he has made from selling weapons to the highest bidder. Lily, who was only eight ten years ago, testified that she saw his father leaving the scene on the night when those jewels went missing, and as a result, Tobin’s father was hanged and his family was subsequently forced to move to the slums in London. Soon, Tobin’s mother and youngest brother died and he had to hand away his sister to the charity of the local church for her own good. Today, Tobin is back to destroy Lily… for telling the truth when she was eight, because that eight-year old little girl was an instrument of evil. This is despite the fact that he knows some sordid details about his father up to that tragic night.
Now, I understand that the need for revenge is not always rational, but Tobin lacks the focus typically shown by a man who is on the path of righteous vengeance. I’m not surprised when he turns out to an unstable dude who is taking out his issues about his father and channeling all his anger on Lily, because it is easier to hate her than his father for destroying Tobin’s family with his selfishness. He has a plan, yes, but his plan is rarely well thought-out. While he systematically destroys the economic viability of Lily’s holdings one by one, he fails to realize the one big flaw in his plan that anyone should have caught on earlier: he wants to show the people who snubbed his family ten years ago that he is now more powerful and wealthier than they, by throwing a grand party in his grand manor… but all these people have to do is to refuse his invitation and continue to snub him in order to thwart him, and that is exactly what happens here. Poor Tobin may want to be a ruthless angel of vengeance, but he more often than not comes off as just silly.
The plot is a hot button. There is Tobin’s revenge plan, which is actually pretty brutal if efficient, as it is targeted at something Lily did when she was eight years old. Coupled to Tobin’s hypocrisy – in one scene, he tells Lily that a child shouldn’t be held accountable for the things she does due to her age, heh, and Lily, to her credit, swiftly points out his hypocrisy – and I won’t blame readers who are put off by his antics here. But I have to admit, when he starts depriving the tenants of Ashwood of fish and jobs to spite Lily, I cringe a bit. Lily is very quick to forgive him, even when he demands her ruination at his hands if she wants him to stop his plans for the sake of the tenants of Ashwood, but I don’t know if you will be just as charitable, so proceed carefully where this book is concerned.
As for myself, I have no issues with the revenge plot because, the way I see it, after what happened to Tobin’s family, he does have the right to want some kind of retribution. What doesn’t work for me is how fast Lily forgives him. Even as he continues to toy with her and dismantle the economy of Hadley Green, she continues to become more infatuated with him. She knows what he is doing, so I can’t fathom how a cute face and tight abs can get her to decide that she’s in love with him despite everything. It seems to me that she is in love with this fantasy of an angst-ridden tortured-inside fantasy hero that she can somehow soothe and help heal, instead of the actual Tobin. I can understand why Tobin will fall for her, since Lily is another standard sheltered and naïve heroine who somehow has an amazing innate understanding of the psychology of a tortured hero to step into the roles of his mother figure as well as hot girlfriend.
What works here for me is, strangely enough, Tobin. He’s not the brightest bulb around, but the author spends a lot of time fleshing out his character to the point that he has his moments as a tortured hero. It’s really too bad that he is paired with a heroine whose unbelievably forgiving nature makes her come off like a childish besotted fool who will grasp at straws to justify her attraction to a guy who is trying to destroy her. The romance, as a result, feels like a rescue fantasy on her part. His feelings for her seem more real than hers, so I don’t know how these two will fare in the long run.
As for the mystery part, it is wrapped up considerably (but not entirely – Ms London needs something to keep the series going, after all), but in a rushed and dry manner in the last few pages of this book. I have a hard time believing that our characters will be so quick to adopt a “yeah, yeah, shocking revelations, but hey, we are in love and having great sex now and we want to make 30 happy babies now so adios, everyone!” attitude in light of some of the revelations here, especially since they were so dramatically blue over the mystery for a big part of this story. Also, I have guessed, correctly as it turns out, what these revelations are early in the previous book. All in all, the secrets of Hadley Green are turning out to be one anticlimax after another.
To conclude, The Revenge of Lord Eberlin has the makings of a good revenge romance because the hero has a strong case for his revenge plot and the heroine is smart enough to catch on to what he is doing. However, the author opts to have the heroine playing the forgiving sexual healer besotted with the hero even he does his worst, instead of letting them play on equal ground. As a result I don’t buy the romance at all.