The Lord Next Door
by Gayle Callen, historical (2005)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-078411-3


The Lord Next Door should be retitled "Logic Has Moved Out Next Door" or something if you ask me. I am not a historical accuracy person when it comes to historical romances, but this story has even me scratching my head. It is, in a word, absurd.

Victoria Shelby's family is on the verge of ruins since the death of her father because none of the women in the family is capable of doing anything right. I wonder which Avon historical romance Victoria's mother was the heroine in. Let this be a cautionary tale to all future Avon historical romance heroes: if you marry a stupid woman, at least have the decency to outlive her since she can't function with you. Seriously. Victoria finds her mother most frustratingly impractical for being unable to realize that holding on to family heirlooms they need to sell off is not the way to be. I relax and start to have high hopes for Victoria... until I realize her Grand Plan is to hope desperately that Tom, whom she has never seen face to face before, will marry her.

Even better, "Tom" is this fellow who stole her journal when they were both ten and she began writing to this kitchen boy ever since. It never occurs to her that a kitchen boy probably wouldn't be literate enough to write those letters to her. Victoria therefore hopes that Tom, whom she has never seen before, will marry her because she doesn't mind being the wife of a household staff. Those letters, by the way, seem to be letters written by adults pretending to be children rather than letters written by ten-year olds, but given everything else there is in this story, those letters are the least of the problems plaguing it.

"Tom" turns out to be David, now Viscount Thurlow. David uses "Tom" as a way to escape the troubles of his childhood. Now, he stands to lose his inheritance unless he marries quickly and none of the blue-blooded women of the Ton will have him because of his late father's "infamous" and "scandalous" reputation. You can see where the story is heading towards, I'm sure.

Because this isn't a proper historical romance unless the heroine behaves like a brain-damaged irritant, Victoria happily brings on the stir-fried plate of crazy. You see, her father killed herself and her family hushed up the news, so this is one Shameful Secret that she has to keep from David so that he will never be tainted by Scandal and Shame ever again. She then feels guilty about her father killing herself - no, really - and for lying to her husband. This is on top of her usual tricks like being a silly innocent when it comes to sex and a martyr for love. Oh, and she also tries not to trust her husband because he lied to her by pretending to be Tom way back then. No, really, she's going to hold him accountable for lying to his pen-pal when he was a silly kid.

This story revolves heavily around Victoria trying to balance keeping her "secrets", "guilt", and "shame" - all blown out of proportion - while alternating between lusting after David, trying to keep him at arm's length, and deciding that he's too good to be saddled with her. This woman is plain nuts. Poor David ends up reacting to her nonsense in this story instead of being a character in his own right, which is a pity since he comes off like a sensible and practical young fellow bent on carrying out the responsibilities that come with his title seriously. Like I've said, he's better outlive his wife because Victoria will end up being run over by a carriage within a week after his passing.

The Lord Next Door is way past due for an eviction from my premises.

Rating: 44


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