Love to read? Think fiction rocks? Looking for book reviews that are smart, honest, sometimes funny, and always fair? Well, my friend, you've come to the right place.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries
passion rating: hot
Dear Ms. Jeffries—
I was ambivalent about investing my time in the last of your Hellions of Halstead Hall series. I’ve read the first four with varying levels of satisfaction. I found The Truth about Lord Stoneville, the first book, that of Oliver, the eldest Sharpe child, to be a contrived and insubstantial tale. I enjoyed the second, A Hellion in her Bed, Jarret’s tale—you did a nice job of explaining the ins and outs of making ale in the 19th century. I loved the third, How to Woo a Reluctant Lady, Minerva’s story—it was one of the better romances I read in 2010. (Giles was a dream hero: sexy, smart, and completely encouraging of his love’s dreams for herself.) The fourth, To Wed a Wild Lord, was a chore to read and, at its end, I didn’t give a damn about who killed the Sharpes’ parents—a mystery woven throughout all the books—or whether or not their busybody of a grandmother would release her fortune—all the books are based on her threat that the five siblings must marry within a year or else she will disinherit them. But, I did read the first four and, after contemplating the final book for several weeks, I decided I’d see how the series concluded.
My verdict is: not especially well. A Lady Never Surrenders, the story of Celia, the youngest Sharpe sister, isn’t the worst historical I’ve read lately. (That would be Susan Johnson’s Seductive as Flame.) But as I read it, I wondered at its mediocrity. Actually, that’s a lie. As I read it, I was vexed the book was phlegmatic and prosaic. I’ve enjoyed a number of your other books: How to Woo a Reluctant Lady is a jewel of a love story; the 1999 book The Forbidden Lord is an excellent tale, full of steam and wit. I’d hoped for better here and was thwarted.
This novel’s pairing was inevitable—anyone who has read even one of the Hellion books knows Celia Sharpe and Jackson Pinter, the Bow Street Runner hired by Oliver to investigate any number of things, are destined to have hot sex and realize the other is their soul mate. So, I began this book—after skimming the preface, an artificial sounding letter from the meddlesome grandmother, an annoying plot device used in all the Hellion books—wondering what Celia’s and Jackson’s story would be. What would restrain their romp toward romance? After reading almost 400 pages—the lyric “the long and winding road” kept popping into my head and not in a good way–I was disgruntled to see their story is nothing more than a wisp of a conflict explained by the overused axiom: “we can’t be together because we come from different worlds.”
This plot already appeared in The Truth about Lord Stoneville. Yes, the sex roles were reversed. In that tome, Oliver’s of the nobility, Maria’s from the commercial class. Readers know the Sharpes have already dealt successfully with this challenge. It makes no sense to devote hundreds of pages of prose to surmounting an obstacle this family has already overcome. The Sharpes themselves point this out several times. It’s clear to Celia’s brothers and sister that Jackson’s a good guy and Celia has the hots for him as does he for her. Everyone can see they should be together. So why aren’t they? Because, in a character conversion I found baffling, Celia’s grandmother, a woman who has been pushy in the other books but still pleasant, becomes an officious harridan. Hetty Plumtree goes from likeable—I was excited, in the last book, she acquired a lover; old people never get laid enough in historical romance—to horrid. She’s like the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio; Hetty makes up random rules Celia must follow to succeed and then threatens to ignore or alter those same rules all in the name of protecting Celia.