The Last de Burgh
by Deborah Simmons, historical (2013)
Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-89808-8


The Last de Burgh is the seventh and final book in Deborah Simmons's series about the de Burgh family. Can you believe that it took 15 years for the author to get to this point? That's because Ms Simmons didn't write the books in this series back to back. There was some publishing drama that disrupted the author's career some years ago, too. Those were the days when authors toiled for publishers without any alternative means to strike out on their own, after all. Given that some of the early books are out of print and I don't see any digital reissues planned at the moment, it's a good thing that this one can stand on its own pretty well.

This one wastes no time cutting straight to the action. Nicholas de Burgh, our hero, is feeling somewhat restless now that everyone's back from the Crusades. The Templars and the Hospitaliers still have issues with one another despite fighting on the same side, however, and when Nicholas is caught up in a sinister plot involving what seems like a strange and probably malevolent Templar cult, he's all ready to knock some heads. Accompanying him is his squire as well as a lad named Emery Montbard, whom Nicholas has decided to protect after Emery's brother got into trouble with those Templars. Before you ask, no, this is not a hot guys doing it type of romance. Emery is actually our heroine. After she is initially mistaken for a guy, she goes along with it because she may be safer that way. Of course, he'll soon discover that she has lady parts, so the happy ending is inevitable.

The Last de Burgh is a road trip romance, and it's a well paced one with a good balance of more action-driven scenes and quieter moments. The romance is stronger than those found in the author's recent efforts, and the main characters are likable types. Emery tries to be tough, but she's understandably out of her league at times. Still, I like her because her vulnerabilities and weaknesses are realistic aspects of her character. It'd be more ridiculous to have her suddenly turning to a medieval European samurai or something.

I wish I can say the same for Nicholas. The problem here is that this is the last book of the series. By this point, the de Burgh clan has become famous and the family name alone bestows considerable influence upon Nicholas. People - like Emery - are inclined to accept him as an honorable knight based on his name alone. Nicholas is also very capable. He keeps a good cheer even when faced against insurmountable odds. Angst? No such thing for him, oh no. Nicholas comes off more like an overpowered version of Popeye (minus the dependency on spinach and fug, of course) - he can do everything and anything better than everyone else in the story. As a result of this, there is hardly any suspense in this story. It's like watching Superman square off against Spongebob Squarepants and his friends in arm wrestling. Even the biggest idiot in the land will know who to place his bets on.

Therefore, The Last de Burgh may be a charming read at the end of the day, but I can't fully get into it because the whole story is way too easy on the hero. He doesn't truly struggle or anything, which is not a good thing for an action-packed story like this one. It's hard to muster up the enthusiasm to cheer the good guys on when they are so obviously going to win from the start.

Rating: 78


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