Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7446-8
Historical Romance, 2004
This book isn’t a good mystery story and it isn’t a good romance either. I have no idea what the author is trying to do here, but Yours Always shouldn’t be the result. This book is excruciating to read because it is crammed with insipid trust issues, ridiculous character motivations, and a romance featuring a couple with zero chemistry.
This book is set in 1854, apparently in another dimension because in this book, everyone acts as if the heroine Anthea Fortesque marrying squire William Hobblesby, a man more than twice her age, is a truly disgusting act, as if a duke’s daughters during those times do not marry for convenience or money. The outrage is not due to the fact that she is marrying beneath her station, mind you, but because she is marrying in the first place.
Our hero Colin Savernake is a private investigator or man of affairs who hates the Ton and uses his sad childhood as an excuse to run wild with the stupid train. The late friend of his father has asked him to help William Hobblesby investigate a series of mysterious thefts that take place at Hobblesby’s country house, and should Colin succeed he will be given a nice piece of farm property. But once he reaches there, he begins to scorn Anthea. He mocks her. He forces his attentions to her, which he justifies as okay because everyone knows all blue-blooded people are jerks as Colin here says so. And Anthea shudders in desire because it is so romantic to be mocked and scorned – ooh! But when the thefts escalate and murder attempts are tossed into the mix, Colin will have to find a way to help Anthea. While he still doesn’t trust her. Wait, he does. Whatever, really.
Colin is said to be smart, but the author will do better to show him actually doing something smart instead of just stewing, making hasty judgments on possible suspects without actually investigating thoroughly, and generally acting like a horndog that can’t make up his mind whether to shag that woman he hates and mistrusts or… er, shag her silly. Likewise, he comes off a vacuously dim-witted when it takes that long to realize that the poverty-stricken Anthea is marrying Hobblesby because she needs the money and not because she wants money for the sake of being a mercenary harlot slut. Not that Anthea is in any way smart – far from it. We are talking about a woman who doesn’t want to marry Hobblesby but feels that she has to so that her family doesn’t have to sell off any heirlooms while her mother and sisters can spend their time lazing at home or playing with flowers. It is very hard to care for the whole Fortesque clan – Anthea for being a dumb martyr and her family for letting her shoulder the entire burden while they laze at home and try to look pretty in order to bait me in buying their upcoming books.
Colin and Anthea’s relationship is ridiculous – a classic unconvincing “Hate You! Want You! Hate You!” rigmarole where he behaves badly and she shivers in desire at being treated like meat and can’t make up her mind whether to scorn him or to succumb to his manly forceful disdain. Colin and Anthea come off as one-dimensional contrivances that act in bizarrely stupid ways throughout the story. The mystery is not compelling because it’s just a matter of time for the dumb characters to stumble upon the very predictable answers. Since this book canonizes female stupidity and martyrhood, it is very guess to deduce correctly the identity, gender, and motives of the villain in the story.
With its silly characters behaving in excruciatingly asinine manner in a badly-crafted mystery, Yours Always can take a hike and don’t come back.