by Jacquie D'Alessandro, historical (1999)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23553-7
This review contains spoilers
I must say this is an impressive debut. Miss D'Alessandro has my vote and my $6 for her next book. Red Roses Mean Love, however, has one fatal flaw: the hero. Lord Stephen Barrett is so lead-brained that braining from a telephone pole is too good a fate for that nincompoop. I won't be able to delve more without giving away some crucial plot development, so I must say the following paragraphs will have some Spoilers. If you haven't read this book yet, you know what to do.
Spoilers! Don't say I didn't warn you.
Lord Stephen Barrett is badly wounded as a result of some Dastardly Deed, and is nursed to health by sweet, innocent Hayley Albright. He's content to let everyone think of him as a mere tutor instead of the pompous ass of a Marquess of Glenfield. He soon finds himself falling under Hayley's kind, warmth generosity and love as well as her lively family.
Stephen starts out a man who is in need of love. Poor man. He is bewildered when these family of Hayley's accept him with open-arms and kindness. His own family lacks affection and warmth, and hence he can't help but to be cynical.
But cynical he is, and for way too long past his shelf life as a romantic hero. If heroism is a value I can measure from 0 to 10, Stephen starts out a 9 and plunges to -10000 by the last quarter of the book. This idiot is a living sponge: all he does is to take, take, take everything from Hayley, from her hospitality to her virginity. This man is torn, guilt-ridden, et cetera, but hey, he sleeps with Hayley the day before he intends to walk out of her life (he can't bring himself to tell her that), and leaves her a note in the morning. He generously stays away, and when a broken-hearted Hayley goes to look for him, he decides that Hayley is better off with another man (I agree utterly) and flirts with other women to drive her away. When things are looking bright for these two, he suddenly has it in his hollow skull that Hayley comes after him because she knows he is a titled (may I add: pompous, brainless, addled, Class A1 Jerk) aristocrat and calls her a mercenary slut. Never mind that she has given him all she has, she has to be a greedy whore. Like I said, I would love to stuff a grenade in that man's mouth.
Worse, these two people would have never gotten back together if not for the matchmaking machinations of Hayley's youngest sister and Stephen's brother. Hence, I close the book with pretty low confidence in these two's longevity in matrimonial bliss. I mean, the man doesn't even want to make the move to go back to her until he is practically prodded to do so - how motivated will he be in the long run? He never contributes a thing to the relationship except for heartaches.
The writing is superb, and the humor is wonderful. Ms D'Alessandro is definitely on my Check out next book list. But Stephen makes all that is good about Red Roses Mean Love pale in his unworthiness. As a result, Red Roses Mean Love reads like a well-written tale of a selfish jerk taking advantage of a giving, misguided, and rather naive woman.
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