by Kathryn Smith, historical (2004)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-052742-0
If North Sheffield-Ryland and Octavia Vaux-Daventry put as much energy into doing things as they do in thinking Dramatically Overblown Deep Thoughts about their feelings of guilt, martyrhood, and love, they would be happy people indeed. But instead, there is so much melodramatic angst but very little sensible action that my patience becomes very strained where these characters are concerned. Why so much drama? So much posturings? Do something, damn it!
North and Octavia are in love. But Octavia is marrying the Kindly Older Man called Lord Spinton and North will not stand in her way as he is a former Bow Street Runner of less-than-uppity pedigree. On her part, Octavia has promised her dead grandfather and dead mother (talk about obligation overkill here) that she will marry Spinton so she will do it even if she becomes very miserable in the process. But someone is sending Vie anonymous threatening letters and Spinton asks North to investigate the matter. I say we send flowers to the villain because without those letters, Octavia and North will still be staring at each other through tortured eyes because they are, frankly, too virtuous to be of any use.
Octavia is an annoying Too Virtuous Character who actually frets that she has too money and she feels guilty not putting the money to good use. One word, Vie: shopping. It'll do your brown cow constitution a lot of good. Her promise to marry Stinton is a flimsy premise compared to the extent she goes to make herself a martyr. Likewise, while I understand where North is coming from when it comes to class differences, it is soon clear enough to me that Octavia isn't that kind of person to care too much about their class differences. Seriously, he should have made her promise to marry him - with her perverse determination to be tied down to promises, at least watching her trying to fulfill promises to him and her dead family members would be amusing, especially when she flails around so fast that her head spins three-sixty and falls off onto the ground with a loud splat.
On his own, North is an appealing self-made hero. With Octavia, which is unfortunately too often, he brings out the worst in her as much as she he. They both spend a lot of time wallowing in deep, brooding thoughts, insisting that Love Is Not Meant To Be, Oh How They Hurt, Ouch Ouch Ouch. But Ms Smith needs to show me why the problems they claim to face in their path to their happily ever are as big as these characters claim they are. As far as I can see, North has issues about him being who he is making him unworthy of Octavia while Octavia insists on fulfilling promises that will only make her unhappy. Maybe in a different story, these people can be considered honorable people. But in this story, these characters come off as melodramatic twits who'd prefer to make a big drama out of their life stories instead of actually trying to be happy. North and Octavia only reinforce each other's tendency to make martyr out of themselves and I think they should each seek different mates who will knock some sense into them the next time they decide to be a headcase of exaggerated dramatics.
On the bright side, the authors has written better books in the past and I'm sure she will write better books than In Your Arms Again in the future. Ms Smith always tries to make her characters deeper than usual and she tries to create internal conflicts to make her characters really work to get their happily ever after. It's just that she fails to present a credible case for her characters' overwhelming melodrama in In Your Arms Again to make me view these characters as valid, angsty people instead of silly people who make too much fuss over their issues. That's why this book fails to work for me.
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