~ LACKED ANY SPARK; DEFINITELY NOT A KEEPER (2 stars) ~
[1824, London and the Lake District]
This is my third Candace Camp book in recent memory and I am coming to realize that she will probably never be one of my favorite historical romance authors. To sum up my complaints of this book: it basically lacked spark. The main characters were inaccessible (hero), or even worse, annoying (heroine); the chemistry between them was nonexistent; the mystery subplot was contrived, hard to believe, and not well done. The lighter moments between the three brothers brought some humor and the supporting character of Lady Vivian was very interesting, but neither of these aspects could by any means save A LADY NEVER TELLS.
WILLOWMERE SISTER SERIES:
Other people have summarized the book's plot, so I won't repeat it. This is the first book in the Willowmere series and will be followed next month by A GENTLEMAN ALWAYS REMEMBERS, starring Fitzhugh, the Earl and Royce's half-brother, as the hero.
CAMP'S WRITING STYLE:
I read THE MARRIAGE WAGER (3 stars) and THE BRIDAL QUEST (4 stars) last year, Books 1 and 2 of her Matchmaker Series, and though I enjoyed the latter, I could not get beyond one aspect of her writing style: she always writes almost solely from the heroine's POV. Before reading THE MARRIAGE WAGER, I'd never read a book by an author who does that and it drove me absolutely nuts! It leaves the hero a complete enigma and definitely stops you from being able to fully understand or appreciate either him or the developing romantic relationship.
Another thing that drove me crazy in this book is that you never know anyone's ages - it's more annoying than it sounds. We find out on page 176 that Mary is 25 years old (at least, that's what I'm assuming from what she says there), and we know the evil Lady Sabrina is in her early 30s; other than that, nothing! I thought that Lily was in her pre-teens or early teens (more on that later), but in one section of the book she says that she was 14 "ages ago."
I was not extremely fond of the Bascombe sisters - Mary, Rose, Camellia, and Lily. I found Mary to be too hot-headed, rash, emotional, and stubborn, and all of them could be extremely immature (them constantly being referred to as "the girls" probably didn't help). Throughout the first part of the book I enjoyed Lily and Camellia's antics, thinking that they were both in their pre-teens or early teens. When I found out they were much older, however, their actions quickly took on a new light; their shenanigans and over-the-top reactions border on the ridiculous sometimes (the encounter from which they acquire their dog, Pirate, comes to mind).
As previously said, writing almost solely from the heroine's POV leaves the hero inaccessible to the reader, so Royce remained a mystery to me for much of the book. I also felt his relationship with and feelings towards Oliver were not fully explored - as they could have been if we knew his thoughts!!
I'm always wary of romance books that feature an instant attraction, and so was disappointed when that seemed to be the direction the book was heading in with the first interaction between Mary and Royce. Not only that, but throughout the book I just did not feel any chemistry between these two characters, as I think another reviewer mentioned. We are told about their attraction, but we aren't shown it.
When Royce kisses Mary for the first time on page 20 and they are both full of wonder and amazement, I knew that this was just not going to be my cup of tea. They don't even know each other and have just met for the first time an hour ago, yet she's already all aquiver (I'm telling you, if I have to read one more time about Royce's "broad shoulders and muscular thighs" I'm going to shoot someone). Mary experienced so much quivering, trembling and tingling that I worried for her health and Royce's eyes darken and burn so often that I wanted to tell him to go see an optometrist.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the mystery subplot left much to be desired. The added story of Royce's history with Lady Sabrina ended up just annoying me, because why would Mary so completely believe whatever this woman tells her? Also, when Royce explains that it all happened 12 years ago, Mary is still hung-up on it (12 years is a LONG time). Then, that she reads the old private correspondence between the two was completely despicable - and something she sadly never has to answer for. Finally, although historical romances are not known for their stellar titles, they're usually at least relevant; here I'm not even sure what the book's title refers to.
Here are a list of enjoyable books whose heroine is the oldest sister of orphaned siblings:
- THE PERFECT RAKE by Anne Gracie (Merridew Series, Book 1), 5 stars
- SCANDALOUS by Karen Robards (Banning Sisters Trilogy, Book 1), 5 stars
- A NOTORIOUS LOVE by Sabrina Jeffries (Swanlea Spinsters, Book 2), 4 stars
- AT LAST COMES LOVE by Mary Balogh (Huxtable Quintet, Book 3), 4 stars
- MINE TILL MIDNIGHT by Lisa Kleypas (The Hathaways, Book 1), 4 stars