by Christina Kingston, historical (2001)
Jove, $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13041-9
This book gets my vote for the Best Book Title of 2001 Awards, if there's such a thing. The story inside, while good, is a bit too slow and a bit too timid when it comes to the hero's angst. A pity, because Chalfont Blysdale, Earl of Blythindale - er, let's just call him Bly - war superspy, has so much potential to be ultra-sexy and tortured. He's a nice guy, even better.
TNTSF features heroine Katherine who is a noble lady highwaywoman. Of course, she robs because she wants to recover evidence that can clear her brother's name. Err, come to think of it, what sort of stupid plan is that? Never mind - let's move on. She's not that interesting anyway; rather goody in a woody way with little depths under that All Morals thing of hers.
So Kate stops Bly's carriage one day, and they - again, that one plays out like pretty any other highwaywoman/highwayman romance, so let's not go there too or I will bore everyone with another rant about predictability in romances. They part, feeling this sizzling attraction between them, and imagine Kate's surprise when Bly shows up at her doorstep, a guest of her brother.
They don't play the coy game for long. Soon both are working together to clear brother Josh's name, and smash the evil villain. Bly feels unworthy of Pure, Pristine Kate because of his Heinous Sins in the war, et cetera, but the author just doesn't succeed in making his pain and angst stand out. In the hands of authors like Julia Ross and Gayle Wilson, Bly could have be a magnetically tortured hero. But here, well, he comes off a bit of a whitebread bore. And Kate is the one-dimensional good woman type. Again, let's not go there or I will start ranting about woody heroines.
Oh, and her brother Josh is an idiot of a typical dumbass Regency romance brother who deserves a trashing but gets off because he's - yup - misunderstood and besides, Big Sister Katie is a Good Woman who loves all Doggies and Lil' Bros and Lil' Sisters! Whatever. Regency sterotypes, bah. Oops, I don't want to go there too.
What I will say is this: TNTSF is a well-written tale of two well-crafted, if boring and stereotypical, characters whose romance develops nicely, slowly, without any firecrackers exploding. There's no surprises, and you won't fall into a heart attack when something unexpected happens, because there's nothing unexpected here. TNTSF is pleasant, enjoyable, and in the end, fades into the blur of so many pleasant, enjoyable, and utterly indistinguishable romance novels that cross my way.
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