The Heart's Desire, by Gayle Wilson

>> Wednesday, May 28, 2003

After I mentioned I'd enjoyed Gayle Wilson's short story in the Bride By Arrangement anthology, my friend lent me another book of hers, which she said had a similar wounded tortured hero: The Heart's Desire (published with a Heather Graham novel which didn't tempt me at all).

Emily is a mere soldier's widow, a soldier's daughter. What could she possibly offer the Duke of Avon, a man with who's disfigurement isn't the leg that doesn't work properly, but the soul that's been so terribly hurt? Dominic Maitland knows the true worth of Emily isn't in a title or wealth, but in a heart that's his heart's desire.
This book was boring. It was torture to go through it, and I finally had to resort to skimming the last 30 pages in order to finish it. This was a 300 page book, but it took me almost a week to read it.

It was extremely frustrating, full of little misunderstandings, those where a character will say one thing and the other will think she means something else and get offended, again, and again, and again. It's a valid device, and when used sparingly, it's not something that will make me dislike a book, but here it was ridiculous. The author relied to much on this.

I also didn't like how there was an almost soap-operaish feeling to the story. Conflict after conflict... you think they're settled ("I love you" - "Me too") and off they go again, thinking the other pities them of married them for duty. Very tiresome.

It didn't help that I wasn't too enamoured of the characters, either. Emily ended up being a watering pot and a ninny, nothing like the brave soldier she was supposed to be, and Dominic felt unnecessarily tortured and wounded, determined to be a martyr. And he spent half of the book on his back, beaten up and/or wounded.

There were also certain details, like how he kept visiting his mistress when he was already crazy about Emily (to be fair, they weren't really involved at the time), which I didn't like. There was a particular scene which was a huge turn-off: he goes to his mistress' house with the express intention of breaking things off with her, but he has sex with her before he tells her. That was yucky in so many ways!!

To conclude, I've liked some of Gayle Wilson's books, but this one didn't work at all for me. Even elements I've liked in other books of hers, like the wounded war hero, felt overwrought here. A D+.

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