by Julia Ross, historical (2005)
Berkley, $13.00, ISBN 0-425-20013-2
This is one of Those Regency Historicals. It has One Of Those Heroines. You know, those heroines. It has a very nice hero but the story makes him do awfully trite "noble" (yes, that kind of "noble") things. Maybe it says more successfully than my entire soapbox can ever will when this story has the hero and the heroine going places but the heroine, a countrified lady, doesn't learn anything except that there is no limit to the sacrifices she will do when she's in love and doesn't think she is good enough for the hero.
I mean, will it kill Ms Ross to have the heroine be affected by her adventures, learn something, grow up, grow a brain? Surely there is more to read about in romance than the start all and end all that is the heroine's "virtue"?
Night Of Sin loses me the moment the hero meets the heroine. Jonathan Devoran St George or Wild Lord Jack has been seeing the world (and being a romance hero, learning all the sexual skills those Indians and Chinese are more than happy to teach every European that comes over and colonizes their countries) and when he returns to England, he stumbles upon a murder of a Malay sailor by another sailor. Elsewhere, the Dissenter heroine Anne Marsh returns from her ocean voyage only to discover a strange fossil amidst her possessions. What the heck is that? Jack witnessed Anne and the sailor stumbling upon each other on the ship they came in on and deduces that the sailor must have stashed the fossil into her bags. How does he know about the fossil? He wants it too.
These two meet when Anne wakes up and catches Jack in her room searching her things. Oh wait, he tells her that he has just fought off the real intruder in her room and he just wants to return her umbrella. Next thing I know she and her aunt are giving this intruder tea while she watches Jack and compares his beauty to an angel's. Their maid tells them that Jack is the son of a nobleman and they all believe that this is that, then - Jack is telling the truth and he is the good guy. So Anne even goes along with Jack when he asks her to come along with him for safety. As she tells her aunt, he has a gun so she will be safe with him.
One, she catches him sneaking around in her room. Two, she has only the word of a maid to vouch for his identity. So can someone tell me whether I am supposed to find Anne charmingly gullible or horrifically stupid? Anne is the truly disgusting type of heroine who, when realizing that Jack is lusting for her, laughs because oh dear, she knows she is plain so really, how can anyone even consider forcing himself on her? Hee, hee, what a silly thing, sirrah! (Of course, she is actually gorgeous.) Then she decides that she wants sex and pounces on Jack. Consequences? Who cares! When Jack wants to marry her, she decides that she is not worthy of him so he wanting to marry her will Just Not Do and yes, Everything Is Her Fault. Oh, and when she finally wants him, he changes his mind. Why? Because he is not good enough for her, naturally!
If these two aren't so serious when it comes to downgrading their self worth to close to zero, I'd suspect that they're being funny or even trying to escape being trapped in marriage. Alas, these two are really, really serious. I suspect that some readers will be ecstatic by the overwrought melodrama of these two dim-witted bumpkins but me, I wonder why nearly every books by authors like Mary Balogh and Julia Ross eventually boil down to the same schtick - two people trying to outdo each other in unnecessary melodrama of martyrhood.
Jack does has his moments in the beginning as a capable explorer type of hero with some baggages but soon after his encounter with the strictly formulaic Virtue With A Twit heroine Anne "Who Cares About Brains When I Have Plenty Of Self-Depreciation To Pass Around!" Marsh he too becomes another twit-brained stereotype. I mean, sheesh, Julia Ross is supposed to be a good author, right? So why on earth do her characters follow the same old schtick? Have sex, regret later, blame oneself and do stupid things to worsen the situation. Maybe I will be more intrigued by these people's dilemmas if they (a) don't have sex first before they start moping and whining about Blaming Themselves For Everything, (b) and the fact that they had sex first smacks too much of a plot contrivance, and (c) everything happens after that feels like pointless contrivances to prolong the martyr theatre.
The premise of this book has so much potential. A heroine who has never been far apart from her comfort zone experiencing another aspect of the world she has never known! Just imagine the sheer amount of character growth the author can pack into her story. Alas, instead everything boils down into the same tired story about two people determined to be the biggest martyrs in the world for all the same old overused reasons in a story filled with stupid heroine behavior and tired "sex first, blame myself later for what happens next" conventions. There is a fossil in this book. What is Julia Ross thinking to abandon all promising possibilities in her story to give yet another tired and too-typical rehash of the formula?
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