Lady In Red
by Karen Hawkins, historical (2005)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-058406-8


I have gone on and on so often about Idiot Regency Historical Heroines and how they often do stupid things to make me see red so I will not work myself up dogging the heroine of this book, Honoria Baker-Sneed, because if I do, I'll have a stroke and end up in a hospital. Let me just say this: the heroine has in her possession the Talisman Ring, an heirloom that the hero Marcus St John wants returned to his family, and Marcus is willing to pay her well for its return.

Our heroine and her five siblings are struggling to live and keep their antique store open while her typically useless father and brother are away in India "working to restore their fortunes", and what does our heroine do in this instance? Take the money and give back the ring? NEVER! See, Marcus and she are avid collectors and they have clashed in the past when they went after the same piece of antique, so here she sees her chance in making Marcus do things for the return of his ring. Like sponsoring her stereotypical Prettier Younger Sister in society, for example. I'd expect that it's more practical for a woman in trade to take the money and use it wisely to feed her family and even start a more profitable trade instead of trying to sell her sister to marriage while becoming a martyr to her finances. But if romance heroines are wise, romance authors will have to work very hard to come up with reasonable plots, which will interfere with their grand scheme to come out with two or three books a year, and I suppose that will just not do.

On the flip side, I see that some readers are bagging on Honoria for being an Unvirtuous and Selfish Woman because she refuses to return the ring to Marcus without wanting payments. Poor Ms Hawkins. She can't win either way.

While everything about this book is a stereotype and every action in this scene seems transparently contrived to result in more clichéd scenes (sort of like clichés quickly dividing and propagating like a germ to spread all over the story, come to think of it), the characters have a genuine chemistry between them. In this, Ms Hawkins has done something right, at least. But because these characters are caught in a circular pattern of argument and stolen kisses with the heroine insisting that she will not give back the ring for whatever reason, I soon find myself losing patience with them and the story. It is as if Ms Hawkins is aware that she has no more story if Honoria returns the ring to Marcus so she comes up with increasingly contrived "You're kidding me, right!" reasons for the two characters to prolong their merry-go-round courtship. When finally something happens, it's the same old conflict that every couple in an Avon Regency historical romance seems to have.

A better and tighter plot would have done wonders for this book. A little more judicious self-control when it comes to the liberal overkill of clichés will ameliorate matters too. As it is, Ms Hawkin's gifts are wasted in a book such as Lady In Red, a cookie-cutter badly thought-out book that epitomizes the mediocrity that results when an author stops writing stories and instead starts cobbling together uninspired clichés of the genre for publishing.

Rating: 56


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