Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-345-46123-1
Historical Romance, 2005
I am starting to come off like a parrot but I have to once more repeat what I’ve said in the previous two reviews of the books that came before The Wedding Night of an English Rogue: fun characters but yikes, the plot, the plot, aaargh! The suspense subplot muddles lamely to an anticlimactic conclusion and the author’s idea of thrills where the suspense is concerned is by creating a cartoon villain so over-the-top ridiculous that I feel like I’m stuck in some Loony Tunes cartoon that is created just to annoy the French.
Julia Hepworth and Heath Boscastle have an unique first meeting: she shot him, he kissed her, in that order. What could have been a beautiful love story is quickly aborted when she married another man. Heath encounters Julia six years later when she, a widow now, is engaged to his commanding officer Russell Althorne and Russell asks Heath to take care of Julia while Russell (and Heath) is busy looking for a psychotic French spy in France. This story takes place in England, by the way. Surely you don’t expect it to take place in France? I’m sure you can predict what will happen between Julia and Heath.
Julia and Heath remind me quite considerably of the more enjoyable couple of Patrick and Anne in Indiscretion in the sense that both Heath and Patrick are walking wounded with scars in their psyche (Heath was badly tortured by the sadistic French spy Armand Auclair until Russell saves him, which is why Heath is obligated to protect Julia even when he knows it is not wise for him to do so) but manage to remain cheerful and keep a healthy sense of humor about life in general. Men like this make very appealing romance heroes to me and Ms Hunter knows how to drive home that point very well. While Julia’s decision to choose Heath over Russell comes very easily thanks to Ms Hunter never allowing poor Russell to become a genuine competition to Julia’s heart, Julia’s reasons for getting engaged to Russell makes sense. Having recently lost both her husband and her father, it is understandable that she chooses to accept the proposal of the first man that offers her solace from her grief. It’s not the wisest thing to do, perhaps, but understandable nonetheless.
With generous humor and enough moments of shared poignancy between them, Heath and Julia make a very adorable couple. It is therefore a real downer when the author eventually puts the suspense into the forefront over the entertaining courtship of Julia and Heath. Armand is too ridiculous as a French spy who is supposedly good at what he does while at the same time turning out to be a deranged and sadistic monster in the process. I am waiting for Ms Hunter to reveal that he eats babies and beats old women for fun but thankfully Ms Hunter has her limits as well. It is not too shocking that Armand turns out to be in England instead of France, harboring a personal grudge against Heath and waiting in the shadows to go all Tasmanian Devil on Julia and Heath. Yawn.
Despite some utterly adorable scenes between Heath and Julia, too much of this story is predictable antics of a demented foreigner hating and wanting to kill our handsome and upright British hero in a matrix of suspense that is mediocre and formulaic at best and a British xenophobe’s wet dream at worst. There is too much subpar formula here and not even two very likable main characters can help this very average book become more enjoyable.