by Julie Anne Long, historical (2008)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-134159-5
Like No Other Lover is... well, think of the hero Miles Redmond as this hot blind date you came across one wonderful evening. The weather was fine, the wine was exquisite, and he was so good-looking and so cultured, you fell in love and started pondering over the names of the babies you wanted to have with him half an hour into the date. And then, he said something, did something, that you found so disagreeable that the idea of having babies with him began to resemble a pivotal scene in Rosemary's Baby. Come to think of it, he did begin to remind you of Guy Woodhouse...
That sums up my reaction to this book. Unfortunately, the Guy Woodhouse resemblance kicks in on page 34 and this story has about 371 pages.
But first, the story. Miles has been infatuated with Cynthia Brightley ever since he saw her in a ballroom a few years ago. Alas, as confident as he was in his status as a renowed seafaring explorer, the talk of the Ton, and the toast of many sated ladies in the boudoir, his ego took a massive beating when he overheard Cynthia dismissing him as a mere second son without any attractive asset to make him worth a second look. Now, when the story opens, they meet again when Cynthia takes refuge with his sister Violet's company after her broken engagement and the circumstances behind it caused Cynthia to be a social outcast. Just a step away from genteel penury, Cynthia is determined to snag a wealthy husband in the Redmond house party. Heck, even Miles will do - he is rich, after all. She's beautiful, she knows it, so she's confident that she can work her magic on him. Ah, but little does she know how big a grudge can Miles hold against her.
My problem with Miles is his rampant hypocrisy. He's dismayed to learn that Cynthia is a hard-hearted mercenary who weighs her prospective suitors by the size of their bank account on page 10, but on page 31, he's agreeing to marry some brown cow because she is rich and she is also respectable enough. The fact that he continues to assume the worst of her even as he is planning to marry a woman using the same criteria that he condemns Cynthia for using, the fact that he is willing to sleep with a married woman in the party while condemning Cynthia for playing fast and loose with men's hearts, and the fact that he seduces her while thinking the worst of her and taking the high road while he's at it... god, I loathe this creature. I wish he is openly an asshole, because at least then he's honest about being a beast. Here, he doesn't get how hypocritical he is. At one point late in the story, he throws the fact that she wanted a rich beau at her face, as if this very fact makes her a hateful creature deserving of being treated like dirt, after she points out that he has taken the only thing she has as a bargaining chip - her virginity - and that she has a heart despite what he may think of her. He doesn't get it. Never does. God. I hate hypocritical assholes who pretend to be the good person.
And yet, Ms Long puts Cynthia in the hot seat here. Poor Cynthia is the one who has to learn humility because she had the nerve, once upon a time, to know that she is beautiful and she deserves the best in life.
The writing is fine, and if Miles hadn't been such a hypocritical asshole who judges Cynthia by the same rules that he happily breaks, I would be laughing and having a good time. Sure, Miles ends up breaking his own rules when it comes to Cynthia, but this kicks in late in the story. For way too long, he is being an ass. Since he doesn't really learn anything by the last page about what an ass he is in the story, I've no problems believing that one day, he will hurt Cynthia even worse than he has already hurt her here. He may have a big penis, but he's a tiny man where it counts.
Now, make no mistake, I love the technical aspects of this book. The prose is lovely to read. I also like Cynthia even when she's supposed to be behaving badly, but then you know me, I'm always fond of heroines who aren't of the typical selfless martyr mold. Therefore, it breaks my heart to see Cynthia being forced to marry a deludedly hypocritical asshole like Miles.
In a way, I have a pretty good time reading Like No Other Lover because Ms Long is a talented author who knows how to do things very well. On the other hand, I can never warm up to the hero and his behavior in this story, so this is one story that I can't fully appreciate no matter what.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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