The Paid Companion
by Amanda Quick, historical (2005, reissue)
Piatkus, £7.99, ISBN 978-0-7499-3554-2
Arthur Lancaster, the Earl of St Meryn, is another fellow thought by his peers as cold, emotionless, the usual. The fellow played cards and showed little concern when his fiancée eloped with another bloke, gosh! It does seem like there's one of those dark-haired guys with powerful thigh muscles and misunderstood personality hanging around every street corner in this author's London, doesn't it? Oh, and there's also a murder. He wants to investigate the whole thing, but he needs a way to distract those pushy mothers and avaricious debutantes from trying to snag him into matrimony. So, he does what every hero does in this situation: he goes to look for a fake fiancée.
Elenora is outspoken, an original, penniless (thanks to her late stepfather), and, despite trying to make a living as a companion, often gets the sack because she can't play the demure mouse or keep her mouth shut. When she barges into Arthur's meeting with a companion agency to "persuade" him to hire her, he naturally finds her adorable and reveals to her the real reason he's looking for a companion. Because he's offering a lot of money, she accepts and, predictably enough, gets all tangled up in his business even as she champions him as the best bloke in the world. With such as adorable woman putting him on a pedestal, can you blame him for falling in love with her? It'd be like having a mirror that praises you to the skies every time you look at it.
Okay, The Paid Companion isn't that bad, but at the same time, it's everything a story by Amanda Quick has become: predictable to a fault. Since I bought this book from the neighborhood dime store during a clearance sale, and I was looking for a comfort read while recuperating from some unpleasant encounter with some germs, I know what I'm getting here and I get exactly what I expected to get.
The quality of Amanda Quick's books in the 21st century is dependent on the ratio of romance to mystery, as, let's be honest here, the author still doesn't seem capable of delivering a halfway decent, actually suspenseful, and even a little bit mysterious mystery after having written sixty billion books for the last three hundred years. Here, the ratio is about 1:1. Therefore, there are some pleasant moments - the romance, which, again, is another rehash of the same old, same old but the author's formula still works, like wearing a cozy pair of sweater that has been with me for a long time - and some boring ones - the mystery parts, which once again involve villains and other secondary characters that just babble everything out to the hero and the heroine without much prompting, even practically narrating their imminent failure in a show of gloating that would embarrass even the cheesiest villain in an old James Bond movie.
Still, I got this book for cheap so I'm not feeling too dramatic about the flaws or the virtues of this book. I would probably be less indifferent if I paid full price for it.
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