Sep 11 2008
Dear Ms. Alexander:
One thing that continually frustrates me in romance is the idea that readers will only find one type of male heroic. To wit, that only the alpha male, stern and unyielding, can make the loins aquiver and her heart to pitter pat. This is why the Duke is such a popular role as is the spy or the soldier because these men are not known for their smiling countenances, nor does he require great wit, a friendly mien or modulated voice.
From the romance novel stock shelves, the alpha male is tall, broad shouldered, generally dark haired, of grim coutenance. Surly demeanor optional for an extra $9.99. It is actually a bright spot to open a book and find a hero of a different caliber and that is what I thought I was getting after the introduction to Seduction of a Proper Gentleman. Oliver, you tell us, is a romantic. In the tontine created by his friends to see who would be the last of man standing, Oliver was sure it would not be him. He was ready to marry and to start a family. He was willing to embrace love, should it present itself on his doorstep.
The setup, it seemed, was to present a kind of role reversal so that Oliver was the romantic, longing for love, and Kate was the clear eyed pragmatist.
Although there was that bothersome character flaw of his that had kept him from marriage thus far. The twelfth Earl of Norcroft was an unabashed romantic. He didn’t just want to marry, he wanted love. His father had loved his mother. His grandfather had loved his grandmother and so on and so forth. Why, marrying for love was every bit a part of his heritage as his blue eyes and brown hair. And every bit as impractical.
Regardless, he was who he was.
Kate believed that she and Oliver needed to be married to fulfill a destiny. Her family had been cursed with misfortune for over 500 years due to an aborted marriage which was an attempt of the two feuding families to end the bloodshed between them. The curse would result in the end of both lines should they not reconcile within the 500 year deadline. Kate is left with the dilemma of how to meet Oliver, the Earl of Norcroft, and convince him to marry her.
The next thing the reader knows is that Kate is left on the doorstep of Oliver’s country home claiming amnesia. In a clever twist, the reader isn’t quite sure that Kate isn’t playing a trick or whether she actually does have amnesia. At least that is the twist I hope was intended.
The problem is that Oliver was not provided a consistent characterization. If he was indeed a romantic, one ready for love, wouldn’t he have embraced this beautiful stranger who seemed perfect for him in every way? Wouldn’t he have loved the idea that she was an amnesiac, something an irrepressible romantic would find titillating? Wouldn’t he have been thrilled that his mother, too, thought that this lovely young woman with the bad memory and the good gloves and clothing (meaning she was from a decent family) was the perfect match for him?
Instead, Oliver is full of ominous threats to find out who Kate really was and to expose her for the . . . what, fraud? of making him fall in love with her. Oliver was presented as intractable and overbearing. He was studying clouds and promising to kiss her one minute and the next threatening her. It seemed incongruous. Was he the brooding agnry man or the charming flirt? Was he the romantic or the stern, unyeilding alpha male.
Best parts of the book were Oliver’s mother. She poked fun at Oliver’s stuffiness. She intimated that the life she currently led wasn’t entirely satisfying and much to her son’s chagrin, was ready to try out her widow’s wings and live a little.
I didn’t love how the amnesia was played out. Kate would be able to play a word association game and come up with an answer. Husband – none. Children – none, but she wants them. Parents – mother at least is dead. Conveniently Kate was able to remember all the details of her life that might provide impediments for Oliver and her falling in bed together. I also felt that because so much of the book was spent with Kate “remembering” her past, that I didn’t get to see her grow as a person at all. I also thought that she was superficially dressed. I.e., she was made to be a scholar but wasn’t given to any scholarly thinking. She was an archer but that was only so that she and Oliver could have physical contacct and get into awkward social situations.
Overall, there is a good sense of humor that permeates this book and for a light, fluffy escape, there are certainly worst ways to spend an afternoon or evening, but I have to say I was disappointed in not being delivered what I thought was promised in the setup. C