England's Perfect Hero, by Suzanne Enoch

>> Thursday, April 22, 2004

England's Perfect Hero, by Suzanne Enoch sounded wonderful.

Lucinda is the last of three friends who agreed to turn the tables on London's most incorrigible rakes. But love is the farthest thing from her mind.

With her two best friends happily married, Lucinda Barrett realizes she can no longer put off her lessons in love. The rogue she hopes to educate must be someone who will keep her life steady and uneventful -- and that someone is definitely not Robert Carroway! The handsome, brooding war hero is far too complicated, and he shuns London society and its “trivialities.”

Still, it is a pleasant surprise when Robert offers to assist Lucinda in her mission to reform and wed a more suitable nobleman. Now if only she can resist the sensuous allure of Robert's astoundingly blue eyes -- and his intense inner fire that leaves her breathless. Lucinda wants a husband, not a passionate, irresistible lover who could shake her world with one deep, lingering kiss. And her heart is telling her that this man could be the most dangerous, disastrous…and exhilarating love she will ever know.

I was very intrigued by the story at the beginning, but it soon took off in a direction I didn't care for, and it ended up simply not being satisfying. A C+.

I don't get why some authors feel the need to crowd and decorate a perfectly wonderful storyline with bells and whistles, until there's no space to develop the principal storyline. This is what happened here. The original story was a guy only just beginning to crawl out of the black hole into which he was sent by a horrific experience and the woman who in a way provides much of the motivation. I liked this story very much, but soon it was being buried by a boring suspense subplot and some nonesense about the gimmick that supposedly links the trilogy, some Lessons in Love thingies that were too idiotic to be believed..

The first part of the book was very enjoyable. Enoch goes a little further than authors usually go with their heros. Normally, their obligatory war experience, which supposedly left scars in their psyches, yadda, yadda, yadda, leaves them with nothing more inconvenient than a few nightmares... which vanish after they come into contact with the heroine's magic hymen (TM), of course! Not so for Robert. After his experience, being interrogated and tortured for months by the French (which, to be fair, was a great deal more harrowing than a straightforward battle, as horrific as those must have been), he's spent years pretty much in seclusion. Even 3 years later, the most unexpected things still trigger panic attacks, and it's terribly difficult for him to function in society.

The whole first part of the book shows him starting to slowly leave his cocoon, attracted by his sister-in-law's friend, Lucinda. This part, as these two become friends, and Robert starts realizing that there are still things that are worth being alive for, is touching and I enjoyed it.

However, the story soon looses focus, and in the second half of the book, Robert's shell-shock, or psychological trauma, or whatever you want to call it, pretty much disappears. He has to investigate a treasonous theft for which he's being blamed so presto! he can now function in society without much of a struggle. Who cares if it doesn't feel right, considering what we saw in the first part of the book? The plot needs for him to be a superhero, so he is.

Surprisingly, what didn't bother me much was the space given to the cast of previous books in the series, because these characters were nicely done and relevant to this story. They provided a kind of extended family for Robert and Lucinda, and this was nice.

Then there were the Lessons in Love, and the whole subplot about Lucinda being completely determined to marry this guy Geoffrey. Why? Well, because he was the first one she decided on and because her father likes him and because... oops, that's all. I really didn't get why she was so hell-bent on him. I mean, it wasn't simply that she was settling for a guy she didn't love, just to please her father. No, it's not just that. Geoffrey was an arrogant, unpleasant bastard, and Lucinda knew it, too. She recognized his unkindness, in the way he made fun of people "less perfect than himself", and she still considered it a possibility to spend the rest of her life with him? And called him amiable?

And in the end, the romance between Lucinda and Robert didn't work all that well, either. I simply didn't perceive much heat between them, and the love scenes I felt were strangely detached. Explicit, yes, but they didn't succeed in being at all hot. Also, something that made me a bit uncomfortable was how the dynamic seemed to be that Robert would tell Lucinda about some of his problems, and she'd pounce on him and kiss him, as if it was pity that turned her on, or something.

Very disappointing, this could have been an excellent story.


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