by Mary Balogh, historical (2003)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23663-0
Lauren Edgeworth is the fascinating Other Woman in this author's anthem to Duty And Noble Love (Expanded Endless Suffering Version), One Night For Love. She's the heroine of this book, and for almost two-thirds of this book, I am having the time of my life. Then, like almost every other duty-muty suffer-for-love books out there, A Summer To Remember turns into a joyless "I'm not worthy, so I will never tell" anthem of the blues in its third half. By the last page, I can't remember why I even thought Lauren and the rakish hero Kit Butler interesting. They are, but decorum, duty, and predictable psychobabbles in the late third make me wonder why I even cared in the first place.
The story's simple premise is this: Kit wants a wife. On a dare, he decides to sniff around the ice princess Lauren's hindquarters. Lauren has returned to society and she puts on a strong front before the sniggering crowd after her jilting at the altar by her useless passive almost-husband. She wants adventure. He wants a wife. Join the dots to spell "Fake Relationship".
Until my pencil reaches the last dot, I am cheering these two on. Lauren is a multifaceted heroine whose icy facade hides that soul inside who just wants to live for once. Kit is charming rakishness personified and that rascal can rob cookies from Girl Guides and still be feted as a hunk to remember. I like how Ms Balogh slowly reels both characters in. Lauren's intelligent enough to know that infatuation is not the same as true love, and it's the same with Kit.
It's just that during the later part when both begin agonizing over whether to uphold their side of the fake relationship agreement that they begin to lose me. These two begin acting like stereotypical nitwits hung up on concepts like honor and virtue - trapped in a box, such as their line of thinking can be called - and following them as they tread along the familiar line of doing things the hard way to a happy ending is disappointing. These two show much promise to be lively, un-formulaic, three-dimensional Regency characters, but in the end they just have to remind me of every silly, dull Regency creatures out there. Instead of "Just kiss her stupid!", I get "Let's just sit down and muddle around in our quiet, reserved passions as we indulge in tiny lil' misassumption about the other's motives as we insist on being trapped in a farce of our own making because we are honorable and we will keep our word, even when it's evident that it's a farce and we should just forget everything, start over, and GET NAKED!"
Well, for what it's worth, A Summer To Remember is this close to being memorable.
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