by Karen Hawkins, historical (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81071-9
Actually the title of this story is a complete misnomer. What abduction? The sorry lil' misunderstanding about hackneys (I'll explain later) isn't exactly an abduction. The more appropriate title may just be The Seduction Of Julia Who Then Plays Hard To Get. Or Julia Saves The Day. Or even How Virtuous Julia Shames Every Other Woman In The Story.
Not that The Abduction Of Julia is a bad story. But it has several main weaknesses that cause the story to develop holes and sink right to the bottom. But first, the plot.
Thanks to his silly old uncle who tries to reform him by creating a troublesome will for Alex MacLean, Alex has to marry a daughter of the Earl of Covington. The flighty intended of his doesn't show up, however. Who shows up instead is the flighty Therese's companion, the supposedly virtuous (starchy) and prim (unpretty, or so it says here) Julia Frant. Julia mistakenly thought the elopement limo was a hackney, thanks to the rain, you see. That's the "abduction". Hmmmph!
Julia is a daughter of a one-day Earl Of Covington, and she is also a zealous social reformer. She's the president of, lemme check, The Society of Wayward Women. That's enough warning for Alex to stay away. But he does need the money - if only to prevent the money from falling into a grubby relative (remember, he's a hero). Julia is halfway in love with him even since she sees him, so there's no complains from that department.
The rest of the story reads like a disjointed segue of short stories of Julia saving strays, actresses, and everyone of lower class London, Julia getting biology lessons from Alex, Julia feeling self-pity and inadequate about her lack of beauty (HA HA HA!), Julia worrying about not measuring up, Julia saving more strays. Oh, and the crummy relative of Alex is stirring up trouble too, by making Julia believing the worst of herself and Alex. Ho hum.
The main problem of The Abduction Of Julia is its very, very, very predictable main characters. Julia and Alex and me, we are old friends now. Really. I can predict beforehand how Julia would go all teary-eyed at the mention of her dead old coot, sorry, beloved daddy. Or how she will gladly be a martyr for love. Alex is the typical rake who believes he got no soul and he can't be loved. Yep, us three go way back, don't we, Lexy and Julia?
I'm not too keen of the way the author handled the characterization and the relationship development. Julia and Alex are in love. Why? The problem is that I'm expected to believe that these people are in love because he knows her cursory sad story about her beloved Pa and Ma, and that she loves him all along anyway. I want to see these people talk, share their feelings beyond the shallow I'll tell you my sad story, you tell me yours, let's snog show-all. I want to be convinced that they love because it's love, a bond between two people who need and bring out the best in each other.
Not because she sees him and wham! Or he sees her with her hair down and hears about her sad childhood... awww. Love develops, it doesn't blossom overnight and stays that way all through the 300 pages.
And I'm also not too keen about the way most of the women in this story are depicted as flighty, immature, bossy, rude, etc etc etc compared to O Holy Julia. Although I can see why - Julia's stereotypically wimpy, lachrymose, and martyr-friendly personality can need all the boosting she gets. Too bad someone left out charisma.
The writing does improve though, if that's any consolation. The glib, disjointed prose at the first quarter soon gives way into easier, more elegant prose laced with unforced humor. Now all that's needed is more work in the characterization department, and maybe a tightening or two in the plotlines here and there. As it is, The Abduction Of Julia is pretty much mired in mundane monotony.
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