by Elizabeth Boyle, historical (2005)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-054931-9
Something About Emmaline is an Elizabeth Boyle book with classic flaws typical of this author's works: the story spirals into a clumsy, complicated mess as it goes on only to be abruptly resolved in a manner that screams, "The editor will have my head if I don't cut 400 pages of my work and tack on a happy ending STAT!" Also, this book requests for a huge amount of suspension of disbelief from the reader, even if the reader fine-tunes her inner approach-a-book meter from "Lucid Story - Whack The Wacky" to "Zany Story - Expect The Wacky" before tackling the book.
This book is actually set before Stealing The Bride so don't get confused if the hero of Stealing The Bride appears in this book as a single man. That is, if you are actually keeping track of the family tree and chronology. If you aren't, there is no harm done.
Our Baron Sedgewick, Alexander Denford, has a bright idea to ward off zealous marriage-minded mothers bent on adding his family jewels to their family coffers. He will invent a wife! I don't know why a proper and self-professed dullard hero will have issues about marrying out of duty but I tell myself to Expect The Wacky. He tells everyone that his wife, Emmaline, is raised in Africa (which is why nobody has seen her before) and is fragile, health-wise, which is why nobody will ever see her again. To keep his grandmother from becoming suspicious, he even has forged letters from "Emmaline" sent to her. Since I'm supposed to Expect The Wacky, I wait for the Ton to start spreading the news that Alex's wife is an African cannibal who has eaten so many people that poor Alex has to chain her to a wall in his country home but I guess that's not Wacky enough for this story. Oh well.
This is where our heroine "Emmaline" comes in. She just sets up home in London and parades around the place while buying new clothes and making herself comfortable by redecorating her "husband"'s London house. When Alex starts receiving bills from tradesmen and learns of this "wife" of his. But he decides that he will let "Emmaline" do what she wants until he figures out a way to get rid of her without raising people's suspicion. I find it hard to imagine that Alex will face so little options when it comes to getting rid of "Emmaline" but hey, what can I say? Expect The Wacky.
"Emmaline" may be a conwoman but she is the typical misunderstood heroine with nasty relatives, unpleasant childhood, and in the end all her actions are explained in a feel-good, predictable manner that leaves "Emmaline" with hands clean and the reader's conscience clear from all that pesky guilt that comes from encountering a heroine that deviates from the cookie-cutter "Me! Selfless! A Martyr! Me! Love me! Please!" templates. But despite all the concessions made to the formula, "Emmaline" is still an enjoyable character when she is sparring and sassing poor stiff-lipped Alex topsy-turvy. Alex and "Emmaline" have pleasant chemistry between them.
But the author tries a little too much when it comes to "Emmaline" and her secrets and reasons for her masquerade, so much so that the story becomes riddled with too many unlikely coincidences, implausible twists, and, at places, outright illogical. Amusingly enough, some of the implausible moments arise from the author trying to make sure that there are some "logical" explanations behind the workings of the masquerade. This gives me the impression that this story isn't wacky and outlandishly implausible by design but rather, Ms Boyle is slowly losing control of her story. If this book wants to be wacky, I'm fine with it. But there are too many things about Something About Emmaline that show signs of skid marks where the plot train nearly derails. Faced with all this, where do I draw the line between "Wacky" and "Oopsie"?
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