Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-15636-2
Historical Romance, 2017 (Reissue)
‘Til Death Do Us Part quietly sneaks in a massive subversion to the formula: both the hero Trent Hastings and heroine Calista Langley are solidly in the upper working class strata, the two of them self-made citizens in every sense of the word. Both have an affinity for crime-solving, and there is a charming kind of chemistry between them. There are some intriguing parallels between them and the main characters in author Trent’s popular crime series. It’s quite cute how a female scientist character in Trent’s latest book is causing a stir among his fans – the female readers are thrilled by the possibility of the hero getting a love interest while the male readers are like, eeuw, please don’t let any romance ruin the focus of the series.
But the author wants this book to be mystery first, romance somewhere to the back of the bus, and that’s where this book flops worse than a dying fish on the beach.
Basically, Calista runs a matchmaking agency where members are discreetly introduced at events (mostly soirees featuring speakers that give educational talks), after her brother has quietly investigated them to make sure that they are all decent people. Trent’s sister is Calista’s client, and he just has to show up pretending to be a prospective client to check up on Calista. As you can guess, she’s not too thrilled about him when she learns what he is really up to. However, Trent’s sister urges him to become a client for real, so that he will know for sure that Calista is the real deal, and he’s intrigued by the idea because she’s your usual heroine by this author who is not conventionally hot, but still alluring and sexy to him.
Meanwhile, he has scars on his face, and he is all so dark and dangerous like every other hero of this author that she’s intrigued by him as well. But at the same time, she’s being plagued by some stalker who is sending her mementos that are usually given to someone who has recently lost a loved one. She also has a persistent ex who wants her back, but hey, surely there is no possible connection there! When Trent learns of Calista’s problem, he signs up to look into the matter, so there you go, the story.
The author has introduced plenty of fun elements here for a romance, but these elements are all poorly or barely developed at all. The romance is stillborn. The formula is there – the surprise kiss, the way they all get so hot and horny after a deadly encounter, He shares that he is all bad and people think of him as some mean SOB, which is why he generally prefers keeping to his own, and she replies by saying oh, he’s wrong because she can tell that he’s a caring, amazing, passionate person, blah blah blah. And then, sex and that’s it. You’ve read this before – better versions of such truncated romances can be found in the author’s previous books. And at the end of the day, I can’t remember the two characters at all aside from them being watered down carbon copies of the author’s usual hero and heroine templates.
All this won’t be so bad if the mystery is good, but it is isn’t. The whole thing is a tick-off-the-items stuff based on the author’s tired and laughable formula for suspense. The moment the main characters identify a suspect, head off to his or her house, only to find that suspect dead – tick, tick, tick. My goodness, that one is practically a running gag here, only nobody is laughing. The hero having all the good ideas and solutions while everyone else nods like he’s the smartest person alive – even if what he is saying is very basic elementary, my dear stuff – tick, tick, tick. The main characters finally being stumbled upon by the villain who holds a gun at them and proceeds to explain the whole plot to them – tick, tick, tick. The final villain being a insane woman who is just jealous that the heroine brings all the boys to her yard without even having to give out free milkshakes – tick, tick, tick. The last is especially excruciating because the author has the opportunity to drive home the victimization of working class women by men in positions of authority, but the identity of that final villain ends up negating all of that and reducing the murders of all those victims into a generic, overdone, and boring crime of passion perpetuated by a cartoon villain. This story is what happens when we strip a Scooby-Doo cartoon completely of humor. All that is left is just formulaic drivel piled on top of one another.
‘Til Death Do Us Part feels too much like a paint-by-numbers work done sloppily by someone who is very, very, very bored and tired of her work. Or maybe I’m just projecting, because I’m definitely very bored while reading this thing. Because the suspense is a stillborn bore and everything else is underdeveloped in a “the author is now bored and will just drop it while pretending that she has never included it in the story” manner, I really don’t see any point in reading this one. And that’s the very embodiment of a one-oogie read. It’s not bad enough to be memorable or to be worth a chuckle or two, it’s not amazing enough to cause fireworks to light up the sky, it’s just… there. And nobody cares. No reason to bother, just… no point whatsoever.