by Madeline Hunter, historical (2008)
Dell, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-440-24395-3
Maybe I am getting too old for books like Madeline Hunter's Secrets Of Surrender. I don't have much patience for wrong-headed know-it-all characters who act as if they are always right and know the answer to everything even when they clearly need someone to save them from their own antics. While I try to be patient with the heroine Roselyn Longworth, she really gets on my nerves here with her me-me-me antics.
The plot of this story goes way back to The Rules Of Seduction when Timothy Longworth pulled an Enron on the bank that he was supposed to be managing. Our hero in this story, Kyle Bradwell, is a self-made man who is caught in the social limbo between the middle class (of which he is too rich to fit in) and the upper class (of which he lacks the pedigree to fit in). He is one of the men whose money went into Timothy's pockets and he wants revenge. However, he doesn't have the heart to abet his fellow vengeance-seekers when one of them totally and publicly shames and humiliates Roselyn, Timothy's sister. He tries to do what he can to repair the damage to Rose's reputation that he has abetted, and he ends up offering to marry her, as you can probably predict.
Of course, if Rose is a sensible heroine, there will be no story here. I tried, people, I really did. I tried to put myself in Rose's shoes, but I ended up imagining instead stuffing those shoes down her throat. You see, Rose is a problematic character here. It's not that she's selfish and self-absorbed. Heaven knows, I've always wanted more of those heroines around instead of the saintly lantern-holding martyr heroines currently running wild all over the place. The problem is that Rose is an inconsistent character. One moment she's wise, but the next moment, she's back to being bratty and silly all over again.
For a long, long time in this story, because it is necessary to keep the story going, Rose will insist that her brother is just being maligned by folks who should have been pleased by the fact that the money has been repaid to those who had been victimized by Tim. Rose will also insist for a long time that she doesn't need to marry Kyle because she - the sister of a embezzler and a woman who was ruined by her false beau and subsequently auctioned off by this man to Kyle to be his mistress - isn't that ruined, oh no. Sometimes Rose is sweet, mind you, and even sympathetic, but those lucid moments are few. Most of the time, she's whining when she's not insisting that she's right when she's so, so wrong.
Towards the end, the author attempts to repair Rose's character, but alas, this is where Ms Hunter decides to get lazy and uses some short-cuts. Instead of making Rose accountable for her faults, Ms Hunter instead attempts to retcon Rose into a misunderstood poor little girl who has issues. In other words, Ms Hunter is trying to get me to sympathize with Rose by passing off Rose as a martyr to her predicament. It's a complete one-eighty from the Rose that I have been following all this while. In trying to justify Rose's antics by blaming Timothy and other convenient scapegoats for Rose's predicament, Ms Hunter is trying to pull a fast one on me using lazy psychology here.
Compared to Rose, Kyle is a dream guy. This guy is so sweet, so patient, and so understanding when it comes to Rose that I can only wonder what kind of mother issues this man must have in order to love her instead of running away for the hills. He has to be the Magic Noble Hero who must have come from the same place that Mary Poppins came from. This guy is more like Rose's trophy for enduring Oh, Those Horrible Things in her life. Good for Rose for snagging this guy despite her best attempts to sabotage Kyle's mission of mercy on her. I can only hope for Kyle's sake that he keeps his wine cabinet well stocked.
Madeline Hunter can write well. I've enjoyed her books in the past. I don't know what has happened. Maybe it's me, maybe it's her, but where this book is concerned, the magic isn't there anymore. I think we both need to see other people.
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