Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-5011-3904-8
Historical Romance, 2018
The romance genre is in love with the angst-filled bad boy, whose sins are often ascribed as due to unhappy circumstances such as terrible childhood, evil parents, PTSD from the war, and more, with the occasional “I’m stuck in a life that requires me to be responsible for a little bit and UGH, IT SUCKS!” idiots thrown into the mix now and then. Hey, there’s nothing with that, and I admit to having my share of favorite bad boys in this genre. The bad boys, in fact, are one reason why the books in this genre can be delicious. However, a bad boy being what he is isn’t enough to make me root for him to find some virtuous dingbat to settle down with – I need to care for his woes and I should be rooting for him to find healing and happiness.
I don’t feel any compulsion to do any of that while reading Meredith Duran’s The Sins of Lord Lockwood. Everything from the title to the premise is set up to make me go starry-eyed because the hero is full of tortured angst, but I need a little bit more than that before I’m compelled to bring out the confetti.
Liam Deveraux was the guy I was supposed to be screaming “I NEED HIS STORY!” at when he first appeared in The Duke of Shadows. Of course, given that that book came out ten years ago, my reaction is more like of a “Who are you again?” and I only realize the connection when I poked around online to look for reasons as to why I’m supposed to be already three-quarters in love with this guy before I even open the book. He was away from London for four years, and now, the reason of that is finally revealed.
He was abducted and thrown into a gulag in New South Wales as a result of his evil cousin’s perfidy! I know, it’s always the cousin. I don’t know why romance heroes don’t just commission assassins to eliminate every cousin in the family the moment they get a title – that would have solved many problems before they even start. He was married to Anna Forth before his detour into an Alexandre Dumas story, and now he’s back plotting revenge against the cousin. The wife gets wind of his return and charges into his apparent domicile of orgies and sins to insist that he gives her an heir. I don’t know why she doesn’t find some nice guy to give her a baby that she can pass for that of a man whom she considers a scumbag that abandoned her before the honeymoon could officially began, but hey, if romance heroines aren’t so virtuous, the number of romance novels churned out every month would be reduced by two-third at the very least.
Now, the author’s job is to make me care for Liam, and it should be obvious early on that he’s plotting revenge. But given that I can’t even remember this bloke when I first read this story, I am viewing him on a blank slate, and all I get is some guy who thinks that he can live it up like some attention-seeking Kardashian bloke – on the wife’s money, of course – and carry off his plan without the wife realizing that he’s back in town. Given that Anna is supposed to be his true love, I can only wonder why he thinks that it is necessary to let her believe that he is an asshole who prefers cavorting with slatterns and wasting the money she brought into their marriage. Oh yes, he can’t tell her why he was missing because that would be cutting down the story by at least two-third its current length.
Since he values revenge over his wife, I should… sympathize, I suppose? Otherwise, I’d have to believe that he thinks he can just pull off his plot in front of Society and then go back to the wife and say, “Hey, I’m a tortured bad boy, so love me anyway despite what I did!” and that will make him a dummy, and I don’t like to think that I believe in a dummy’s power of love. The angst doesn’t justify the means, at least for me – sadly.
Now, let’s look at the whole thing from Anna’s point of view. So the cad is back, and the only reason she needs him is because of the always-convenient “I need you to stick it in me and give me a baby NOW!” reason that ties everyone together in the endless cycle of love. Liam continues to behave like a boor because of page count reasons, so why on earth does she need to stick with him? Just drug him up and boink him, or if that is too immoral, hey, do that popular virgin-wants-pee-pee thing by pretending to be some masked slattern during a masquerade ball to get that hero right inside of her. I don’t get why she would continue to find reasons to stick to him, let him treat her like that, and still find excuses to believe that he’s not that bad.
The author throws up flashbacks of the two characters’ beautiful love four years ago, but here’s the thing: it’s easy to be in love when you’re not tested by circumstances. Who cares that these two live in a land of rainbows and sun beams those years ago? The present is more important, and the author never convinces me that I should care for these two as they are in the present day. The whole set-up and story development continue to feel like some contrived excuse to subject me to non-stop “noble suffering” and “I’m being an arse to you because I am TRULY SUFFERING, ooh! Feel sorry for me and PUT OUT TO ME… FOREVER!” stuff that I’m supposed to love so much.
Yes, the author is as always a technically accomplished storyteller, and The Sins of Lord Lockwood can be easily read and digested in one sitting. That just means it meets the basic criteria of an okay read, hurray. Now give me something to get really excited about.