Someone To Love
by Kasey Michaels, historical (2001)
Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-60585-9


After her last few forays into paranormals which is best described as, er, paranormal, Kasey Michaels finally returns to no-nonsense Regency romps. I, for one, am delighted. She just isn't the same when she's writing about ghosts and devils and guardian angels - she isn't as funny and her heroines and plots tend to take on a sickly too-sweet hue. But Someone To Love pairs a no-nonsense widow determined to marry her niece off to replenish the family coffers and an effete dandy. Not a single paranormal aspect in sight.

Now, if only I can get this thought out of my head that Kipp Rutland, the hero, is gay.

Abigail Backworth-Maldon, or Abby for short, is one busy woman. Her husband died in a most embarrassing manner - while trying to climb out of his mistress' window, he accidentally hanged himself; everyone got a nice view of his corpse dangling half naked from the window when morning came - and she is still trying to live down the scandal. Her husband has run through her dowry and what little left of the Backworth-Maldon monies, and now her uncles-in-law (twin doofus twits) are plotting to steal horses as a way to recoup their fortunes. Abby's sister-in-law is convinced that Abby is evil because the woman's poodle and Abby hate each other. Abby's niece (the poodle-loving woman's daughter), however, is a stunningly beautiful woman, and if Abby can get the unfortunately dim-witted babblemouth Edwardine to shut up for more than five minutes, Abby is sure the woman will marry well and save everyone from poverty.

That is, if Edwardine doesn't go and accidentally ruin herself with some Unsuitable (read: poor) Suitors first.

The last thing Abby needs, therefore, is to be attracted to Kipp, the man she is trying to throw Edwardine to. On his part, Kipp needs to marry. His mother made him promise to marry, and well, he is a Viscount and he does need to get some heirs. Readers may remember Kipp from Kasey Michaels' Waiting For You as the dandy other suitor of the heroine Merry. Well, apparently his heart is still broken by Merry, and now he feels he can't do anything but to marry for convenience. Edwardine is beautiful, but she drives him up the wall with her babblings. Finally, he strikes a marriage-of-convenience deal with Abby instead. The rest of the story deals with them trying to find a post-nupital rhythm that will suit them both perfectly.

On their own, both Kipp and Abby are fascinating characters. I especially enjoy watching how Abby twists, bends, and exploits Society's rules for her own advantage, taking her time to weed out and ruthlessly drive off Edwardine's less-than-sterling suitors. Eugenics may find a new champion in Abby. Practical yet hiding a romantic core (she loves romantic novels), Abby is a fiery, delightful heroine.

Kipp is less fleshed out. He writes the romance novels Abby enjoys, and he, too, hides a romantic side of him under a mask of cynicism. But I am not too fond of the way he keeps criticizing Abby's clothes and fashion sense. Who would want to marry a man who keeps finding fault in how you dress, how you carry yourself, and in fact the prettier - in all the sense of the word - of the two of you in marriage?

If I have one complain, it's the fact that the conflicts of the marriage seem to stem from petty, trivial issues of clothes, deportment, looks, and an insistence on not telling the other that he or she is falling in love with the other day by day. It is irritating, although the surfeit of amusing antics from the other outrageous Backworth-Maldons more than make up for it.

And I am also rather disturbed by the fact that Kipp generate more chemistry with his Siamese twin of a best buddy Brady, who plays matchmaker in this story. Excuse me, my stereotype is showing, but two men who spend all their days and nights together everywhere and anywhere and even sit down and bitch about the fashion of the ladies that pass them by - bitchy girlfriend bonding, anyone? Brady keeps thinking of Kipp in terms of glorious, handsome, muscular, charming that I keep waiting for him to stand up and declare his love for Kipp. And Kipp's relationship with Abby, which in truth seems more like a zookeeper toying with an amusing babboon, and its lack of passion or fire don't improve matters much. Kipp doesn't even have chemistry with his mistress in one gratuitous he's-just-boinked-her-and-is-now-getting-bored-of-her scene. His kiss and sex seems clouded with boredom.

When Abby and Kipp are together, I can see him patting her head. When Kipp and Brady are together bitching about clothes and women and gossips, it is oh so easy to see them bitch-slapping each other or giggling as they apply lipsticks to each other's lips.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's just this author's inability to create realistic sparks between men and women and worsen matters by having two male best friends acting more like girlfriends than any actual male buddies. Do we need two guys so involved in fashion and primping anyway? I know, I'm a dirty old woman. But really, where is Oscar Wilde when you need him? I bet he could teach these two a thing or two about admitting their feelings and hidden desires.

Still, Someone To Love is hilarious. The dialogues are a romp, and everyone's a crazy, zany hoot. I have a wonderful time reading this. Sure, I do wish there is more chemistry and substance - between Abby and Kipp, although I won't mind if Kipp and Brady run off to Greece while Abby falls for a less self-absorbed guy - but this book is fun. It made my day after a series of consecutive bad books. Thank you, Abby and Kip and gang!

Rating: 83


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