Book Review of Whitney, My Love

Whitney, My Love
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I read this book because the controversy surrounding it, plus Clayton Westmoreland's ubiquitous appearance on any "A-hole Heroes" list/discussion, had me curious just what was between the covers. What I found was a mixed bag. The two scenes that seem to provoke the most debate are the ones with the riding crop and, later on, Clayton's rape of Whitney. The former was a little OTT, I'll grant, and the short-lived rape wasn't all that remarkable either. In fact, it irritated me no end later on when a detail of it was used to prolong yet another "misunderstanding" between the hero and heroine. In fact, that was what peeved me most about the story. It was about 100 pages too long, with the end marred by a "Oh, Good Gawd!" regression of Clayton to "Jumping To Conclusions Redux," in essence re-traveling ground that consumed at least a hundred pages earlier on because of a similar misunderstanding. Clayton eventually works it all out, and Whitney has her own endless pages of second-guessing and puzzling over behavior and evidence so that we get the HEA. It was ponderous and I started to skim out of boredom.

The overwhelming strength of the book is the evocative style of the period. It's all a very clear and crisp mental picture, and made it easy for me to get absorbed. This Jane Austen era isn't my favorite, unless there's a significant military presence in the story (either in the plot or one of the characters). The sprawling and messy cast sometimes dragged it down (especially Stephen and Lady Westmoreland - they could have gotten the boot and I wouldn't have cared).

I guess I couldn't check my brain at the door, because the illogic of Whitney's and Clayton's actions left me scratching my head or shaking my fist at the pages. The final OTT misunderstanding irritated me on this count, because just why would Whitney keep such a dangerous note about fearing she was pregnant? She didn't want to leave it behind for a servant to find, yet it's late fall/early winter in England. There wasn't a fireplace kindled ANYWHERE to take away the damp chill? I started out liking Whitney and feeling sorry for her, but by the tedious end, I was ready for her to fatally clothesline herself while racing her horse through the woods. As for Clayton, he didn't impress me all that much - for good or bad. While McNaught was A+ at describing the scenes and surroundings, when it came to her hero, there wasn't much to go on. I had no sense of who he was - just disembodied gray eyes with long legs and a drawl. Those three characteristics were repeated ad nauseum, so it pretty much overwhelmed all else about him.

I'm glad I read it to see what all the fuss was about, and I like McNaught's style, but I'm hoping that her heroes and heroines are far better in later books.