Forever And A Day
by Delilah Marvelle, historical (2012)
HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77636-8
Forever And A Day has a fairy tale vibe to it, and therefore, some suspension of disbelief is needed for complete immersion into the story. Then again, is there any amnesia romance story that doesn't require some suspension of disbelief? Remember this and try not to snort when you read my synopsis of the story.
It is 1830, and we are at New York City. Our nobody of a heroine, Georgina Milton, is a spunky and tough lass who is used to life on the wrong side of the tracks. In fact, she is the boss of a bunch of folks called the Forty Thieves, with they being as protective of her as she is they. Don't worry, our heroine isn't some grubby hustler, she and her friends are actually a bunch of disenfranchised liberals chaffing under the iron yoke of capitalistic tyranny, so to speak. Anyway, one fine day, our heroine meets our hero, a clearly genteel Englishman of wealth judging from his clothes and demeanor.
Our hero, Roderick Tremayne, is actually the Duke of Wentworth. The reason he is in New York City is revealed only later in the story, so I won't go into detail about that. Let's just say that it's a personal business. He hits on Georgina and just won't accept no as an answer. Because he is hot, though, the heroine thinks that he's not all that bad, and cottons to him far better than he deserves to be cottoned. Alas, while he is trying so hard to get her to join him for a drink and hopefully more, things happen, let's just say, and he ends up in the hospital with no memory of his identity or his past. Guess who ends up being his caretaker, and guess what happens next.
I have plenty of reservations when I begin reading this story. The heroine and her lower class folks are written as poorly educated compared to the posh folks around them (one of them has problems understanding what "memory loss" means, mind you), and often the author inserts some charming lower class slang into their conversations. However, she also more often than not slips up and has these supposedly poorly educated folks using big words now and then. Also, their lives come off as a bit too nice for people of their lot. This and the inconsistency in their lower class portrayal often give me this impression that they are just regular folks playing dressing up or something.
However, the heroine Georgina turns out to be the rare heroine who is plucky and feisty in a good way. To my pleasant delight, she is one of the most well drawn character in this book, and she is also a tough cookie to match her no-nonsense exterior. Indeed, I find myself somewhat moved by her determination to keep her head up even when the odds seem to be against her. By the last page of this story, I want her to be happy. She is a fighter, and more importantly, she doesn't give up when the going gets tough.
I wish I can say the same for Roderick. I have a hard time warming up to him at the beginning when he behaves like a creepy stalker who keeps dogging the heroine until she agrees to let him cozy up to her, and his behavior doesn't improve until the second half of the book. The early half of the book sees him behaving like a sex-mad creep who just wants to shag the heroine all day, all night. Rather hypocritically, he is appalled by his pre-amnesia behavior towards Georgina, but his present behavior isn't any better as he deliberately misinterprets every word and action of the heroine as an invitation to paw her. He is more tolerable at the beginning of the second half, but he quickly enough pulls that "I must ditch the heroine for her own good" stunt that kills any goodwill I am starting to feel for him. In real life, when we have a guy who ditches a woman (for her own good, of course), the same woman that he has been pursuing aggressively all this while, and conveniently after it is clear that he has to lay in the bed he had made - well, that guy will be called an asshole of a user. In romance novels, he's called a noble martyr, I guess. More damningly, his own father has no problems with the heroine, and that man knows her for far less time than Roderick. When the romance hero is the only person embarrassed of having the nobody of a heroine in his hollowed life... ouch.
Ms Marvelle is aware of the hero's shortcomings, mind you. This is why it is heartbreaking to come across that scene where the heroine fiercely tells the hero that she will prove to him that she is worthy of his love - in a way that he has yet to prove to her, because Georgina is clearly too good for this dumbass. Her background story is far more heartbreaking than his pathetic whiny privileged childhood braying, her life had been far harder than he can only imagine, and yet, she has to be the one to prove herself worthy of him? By the last page, I have serious doubts about this relationship. I am not convinced that Roderick understands Georgina or anything else that exists outside his narrow sphere of a life, and since he is a self-absorbed dunderhead, I do not know how long it will be before he finds another excuse to finally ditch her, this time for good.
My doubts about the hero's worthiness aside, I find the story a pleasantly fun read. The narrative has a lively bounce to it, and there are some moments that have me laughing out loud. I also appreciate the author showing that she is aware of her characters' flaws, and even if she doesn't succeed in convincing me that the hero is worthy of the heroine, I like that Ms Marvelle attempts to go the extra mile and add some complexity to the main characters' relationship. This book succeeds in connecting viscerally with me and making me feel something, even if that something is not completely positive in nature. I can't say that I am completely bowled over by this book, but I'd be lying if I say that I do not enjoy reading it.
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