Isabella, by Loretta Chase

>> Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Before Isabella, I'd only read Loretta Chase's single titles. I've read most of those (except for one that's too hard to find for me) and all were wonderful, so I hoped for the best with her Regencies.

Isabella Latham has seen one too many Seasons to be considered marriageable. But when she comes to London to chaperone a come-out, it is Isabella who is sought—by more than a few eligible bachelors, including the handsome-but- wicked Basil Trevelyan and the roguish Lord Hartleigh. Little does the savvy woman know, however, of the impending scandal that will shake up the ton—and land her the perfect husband...
While there were flashes of brilliance here, ultimately, I just didn't enjoy Isabella very much. I'd grade it a C.

This was a very short book, and yet, the first half, only about 90 pages, took me days and days to read. It did pick up a bit in the second half, but it was just too little, too late. Even when Chase introduced more and more subplots (there was one which felt especially out of place, the one about the lost nobleman coming back to England), all it did was bog down the book, not make it move faster.

The main problem was that the protagonists were truly boring people, who had no chemistry whatsoever between them. Too often, they fell into the most contrived modes of behaviour possible. Isabella had such an ease at seeing through Edward's cousin Basil's lies and machinations about his feelings for her, right until he pulls the most obvious trick of all, and that she buys! And then she just becomes a wimp!

The only things in the book which felt remotely like Chase's later books were, first, the language. There were quite a few paragraphs which were so wittily written I had to go back and reread them a couple of times. Also, a couple of the secondary characters were great. The villain, Basil, was fun, and so was Isabella's mother. Their scenes were entertaining, but of course a romance in which the only scenes which work are those in which the protagonists aren't present, isn't much of a romance.


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