by Lauren Royal, historical (2002)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20688-6
How's this for a super book - I can't remember a thing about this book the moment I put Violet down. And I've put this book down a lot. I'm at loss to explain this story's inability to capture my attention: the characters are okay, albeit stereotypical ones, the plot is okay, the matchmaking mommas and sisters aren't too irritating, the kids aren't too annoying, so this book should be okay. Instead, this book redefines the term "nondescript" - every time I put this book down, I have to reread the last few pages just to remember what I was left reading.
In fact, even now I am flicking through the pages again as I type this down, hoping to remember what this story is all about. Here goes. Violey Ashcroft's family motto is "Question Convention" - although in this case, a more appropriate reinterpretation would be "Join the Flock", because Momma Ashcroft is your usual marriage-mad biddy and the sisters (the other two's books are coming up next) are your usual one-word-description personalities (bluestocking, romantic, et cetera). The hero is Ford Chase, a rake who is also a scientist. He believes that while he wants an intelligent women, he is sure that no women are intelligent so he will avoid bluestockings altogether, until he is so bored of vapid ninnies that he finally decides to avoid women altogether. You want me to repeat that again? Anyway, he too has the usual boyfriends and male family members who are the rakes (single ones) or ex-rakes who keep saying that he's next (the married ones).
What happens is, he cannot control his niece Jewel, so he tries to get the neighboring Ashcrofts' lil' boy, Rowan, to keep Jewel company. Violet, Rowan's sister, becomes Rowan's babysitter, so that puts her in close proximity to Ford often. So there they go, spit-swapping when Rowan and Jewel are pretending not to peek. Next thing you know, everyone's roped into the merry go-round of family nosy antics and PG sex.
Let me flick the pages some more. Ah yes, Violet is the heroine who will only marry for love, thinks herself not marriageable because she is not like every shallow, vapid dingbats out there, et cetera. As for our Guru Hero here, well, when he's not launching into scientific lectures (I'm not kidding), he's trying his best to keep his giant torpedo swellings of his desire from our heroine. Oh, look, here's a heroine who actually has a brain and intelligence (read: not into fun, no sense of humor, and loves to stare at him, dazzled, as he launches into another long, boring lecture about Galileo and Hooke and all)! Guru here obviously haven't met any of the other bluestockings swarming London and the countryside like predatory locusts searching for ways to lose their virginities while saving Daddy forever and ever.
So there they go, pleasantly dawdling and talking and indulging in all those tiny lil' second-guessing of the other's actions. Guru is puzzled because the spectacles he generously gives our heroine doesn't seem to please her at all, when in fact she's just ashamed because she's sure that the glasses make her ugly. Does he love her? Does she love him? And on and on they go. Then, of course, they have to end up in that Big Dilemma after Doing That Thing In The Name Of Scientific Experiment (her idea, naturally), but then she will not marry him, because he's marrying her out of duty and he didn't say those three words! (No, no "Bigger diamond, dear?", but "I love you", silly.) And on and on they go.
Sure, the story is riddled with enough familiar elements that can make a fatigued reader like me experience the doldrums, but I must say, the writing isn't too bad. Guru and his Mary Magdalena here actually have some fine moments together, even if they're more like a silly infatuated college kid and her college professor than any lovey-dovey couple. The kids Jewel and Rowan aren't too bad, heck, Jewel even remind me of Lilo from that Disney movie Lilo & Stitch. She probably catches piranhas with her bare hands and eat them raw. Violet isn't too bad, actually. It's a pretty pleasant, stereotype-riddled story.
Maybe too pleasant, perhaps, because I just can't remember anything about this story after finishing it. Scenes come and go, pleasant inoffensive scenes that barely leave a ripple in my mind. Sure, I can turn the pages of this book and say, "Ah yes, pretty cute story. Nothing great, but hey, not bad either!" but working up the compulsion to actually reread this book is another story altogether. When it's here, it's here, but when it's gone, gee, what was that all about again?
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