Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21170-7
Historical Romance, 2004
The hero of Under a Lucky Star not only carries this story, he single-handedly reaches out of the page, grabs hold of my cheeks, and forces me to keep my head turned towards the pages even as he persuades me to keep turning the pages. I don’t know who I adore more, Derek Whittaker of this book or the author’s other hero George Carstairs. In fact, I think I’ll take the both of them, how’s that?
Perhaps it should be expected, but the heroine of this story, Cynthia Fitzwilliam, doesn’t succeed to holding her own. Derek eclipses her totally, perhaps because he is a refreshing anti-rake hero, a change from the usual stereotypical broody rakes, while Cynthia is the stereotypical doormat damsel under the thumb of a marriage/money-mad momma. To give her credit, Cynthia comes into her own as the story progresses, but it’s all because of Derek. Again, it’s all because of Derek, and the last thing this story needs is more Derek if it wants to be a balanced story, if I am making sense here.
Three years ago, Derek and Cynthia shared a kiss. The set-up should be familiar: Cynthia is the “Frost Fair” of the ball, a beautiful woman who is stingy with her affections, and she meets Derek while wandering through the hallways of a concert hall to escape a lecherous coot’s attentions. Derek fell in love at first sight in such a way that brings a wide smile on my face. But Cynthia is raised to marry into money and she was engaged at that time, so alas they weren’t meant to be.
Today, Derek has inherited some money as well as estates, and Cynthia is still single and looking for a husband to bail her family from her father’s debts. What is stopping her now? Cynthia’s own silliness, of course, as she insists on pursuing a dull other guy whom her friend has a crush on.
This is one of those stories in which nearly all of the obstacles in the relationship are planted by the heroine’s inability to shake off her mother’s claws. Derek slowly pursues her and brings some sense into her, and while this only makes Derek even more of a dreamy hero than he should legally be allowed to be, it also makes Cynthia come off as rather dim. She seems to come to her own later in the story, but I can’t help wondering whether she has merely transferred her doormat behavior from one authority figure to another. Not that Derek is in any way overbearing, it’s just that I sense that while Derek loves Cynthia, Cynthia doesn’t love him as much as she needs him. That’s why I don’t find the relationship balanced in any way. Cynthia is indeed Under a Lucky Star that Derek is so patient yet so tenacious when it comes to winning her affections. But that could be just me.