The One That Got Away, an anthology

>> Tuesday, September 13, 2005

New month, new Author of the Month in my Historical Romance Chat group. It was my turn to choose in September, and my pick was Liz Carlyle. Since the only thing by her that I haven't read yet is two short stories in the The One That Got Away and Tea For Two anthologies, I chose one of them for myself: the first one.

The first story was The Trouble With Charlotte, by Victoria Alexander, an author I haven't liked much before. It started well enough, with widowed Charlotte Robb about to start her first affair after some 6 years of widowhood. She's managed to acquire a certain reputation during those years, but being a good romance heroine, this is just a fake one (first sign things weren't going to end well).

She already has a candidate for a lover, a lover who is fond of her and is already thinking vaguely of marriage, when her supposedly dead husband shows up. The second sign things weren't going well was when that husband, Hugh, admits he's been sleeping with other women in those 6 years, even in the years when he'd recovered from his amnesia (didn't you guess he'd had amnesia?) and knew full well he had a wife.

This info, coupled with the knowledge that Charlotte had been celibate even if she had thought herself a widow all those years, was almost enough to make me stop reading. I'm sick of this double standard in romance. I've read way too many books with this plot, and it bothers me. Still, I decided to keep on reading, because Hugh had decided never to go back, apparently, and let Charlotte start a new life, when he started cheating on her while away.

But then, not 10 pages after that, when they're talking about the discussion that ended with Hugh leaving Charlotte and going off to war, he admits that while he wasn't doing what Charlotte had accused him off, which was bedding a certain woman, he had been planning to.

So that was it, I was out of there. I refuse to finish this one. Cheating bastards are a huge hot button for me. I can read anything, if it's handled by a good enough author, but a plot like this one.... that's my one exception.

But after that, the best story in the bunch, amply fulfilling my expectations: Much Ado About Twelfth Night, by Liz Carlyle. It's a story based on a series of misunderstandings, but it worked for me.

Edward, the new Marquess of Rythorpe, has loved Sophie St. John forever (so forever that I prefered not to dwell on the fact that, if my quick calculations are right, he must have been after her since she was about 13). He proposed as soon as she was old enough for it, but made a mess of it out of stammering and hemming and hawing his proposal.

Sophie thought he was only proposing out of duty, because he felt sorry for her, so she said no. Meanwhile, Edward felt he'd made his love for her clear and was very hurt by what he saw as her cold refusal.

Eight years later, Edward is back from the war, now titled, and trying to recoup his family's diminished fortunes. And then he receives notice that Sophie's coming to his grandmother's birthday party, and his grandmother tells him Sophie's planning to make him a Pretty Offer he would do well to consider. That offer is actually that Sophie wants to buy one of his racehorses, but can't you guess what Edward assumes?

And on that second misunderstanding, off they go. And it's actually a lot of fun. I loved how Edward is still crazy about Sophie and keeps getting more and more convinced of the fact that maybe he should think of accepting her offer. The romance is sweet and tender, and the misunderstandings were understandable enough (hah-hah) and made sense. A B+.

Eloisa James' A Fool Once More comes after that, and it was all right.

At 17, Genevieve eloped with wild Tobias Darby after only 3 hours of meeting him. Her father caught them before they got to Gretna Green (but not before she was deflowered twice, as Genevieve puts it), and married her off to an old, rich guy. Tobias, meanwhile, left for India where he made his fortune.

Fast-forward seven years, and Genevieve is widowed and infatuated with her late husband's business partner, who seems amenable to a match between them. And then Tobias comes back, determined to finally marry her.

This story was pretty enjoyable. I always like James' writing, and her characters were fun, if a bit silly. A B-.

Nightingale, by Cathie Maxwell, closes the anthology. And, oh, no, not a martyr heroine! Anything but a martyr heroine, please!!!

You know the drill if you've ever read one of these books. Dane and Jemma were engaged when they were very young (the magic age seems to be 17 in this book), but Jemma was pressured by her horrid family to marry an old, rich guy. Now she's widowed, but her husband was stupid with finances, so her family's still in trouble.

When her brother drunkenly goads Dane and challenges him to a duel, martyr Jemma goes to him in the middle of the night (of course), to ask him to spare her brother (of course). When he seems not to be too enthusiastic to do that, she offers to sleep with him (of course). Trite's the word for this story. A C-.

So, one story I very much enjoyed, on that was just ok, one that was pretty bad, and one that was so bad I could not even finish... *working*working*working* maybe a C+?


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