Lord St. Claire's Angel, by Donna Simpson

>> Tuesday, April 04, 2006

book coverDonna Simpson seems to be one of the most respected "new" (as opposed to the "classics" like Balogh, and so on) authors of Trad Regencies. I think I had her confused in my mind with Diane Farr, because I was completely sure I'd read a couple of her books, but now that I check, I realize I'd never tried her before. I've managed to accumulate some of her titles in my TBR, though, and I decided to start with Lord St. Claire's Angel, which many people mentioned as their favourite of this author's books.

An On-The-Shelf Miss

Celestine Simons was past the age where a woman could hope to marry. Still, she counted herself blessed, for she held a good position as governess in the household of the Marquess of Ladymead. But when the Marquess's brother, the handsome Lord Justin St. Claire arrived for the Christmas season, Celestine's lonely heart caught fire. He was so sweet and understanding. Yet, a marriage proposal from a pleasure-seeking aristocrat had to be merely a cruel joke if not pity for a poor spinster…

A Libertine Rogue

Love was a game for the devil-may-care Lord Justin St. Claire—until he met Miss Celestine Simons. Justin never thought he could be felled by cheerful good sense and intelligent conversation. He'd set out to give the plain, timid miss an innocent thrill under the kissing bough—becoming smitten with the gray-eyed beauty was the least of his intentions. But the more he denied his aching heart, the more he yearned to make Celestine his!
It was quite a disappointment, with an outwardly charming but irresponsible and arrogant hero and a tedious heroine. My grade: a C-.

Lord Justin St. Claire is a well-known rake. His hobby is making young debutantes fall in love with him and making widows and unsatisfied wives fall into bed. He visits his older brother and his wife's home every Christmas for a month, and the previous year he was discovered kissing the governess under the mistletoe, which resulted in the young woman's dismissal, an inconvenience his sister-in-law Elizabeth very definitely does not want repeated this year. She's not worried, though, because she's managed to defeat Justin even before he gets started. The new governess, Miss Celestine Simons is plain, drab, twenty-eight and has arthritis. Not someone Justin will chase after, Elizabeth states triumphantly.

She states this in front of Justin, however, and that is her mistake, because Justin refuses to let his SIL's meddling defeat him. He decides to go after Celestine anyway. That will show Elizabeth not to meddle in his business! Problem is, after a while he realizes he's becoming more attracted to Celestine than he would like to...

Let's see, where to start with what bothered be about LSC'sA? Ok, Justin first. I'd heard such wonderful things about this character, how he was so charming and how it was so romantic the way he saw beneath the surface to fall in love with the real goodness within Celestine, so I was prepared to enjoy him. I'm afraid I just didn't see the charm. Or rather, I saw it, but it seemed to me it was just a façade covering a weak, irresponsible, arrogant man.

I just couldn't stand his cruel disregard for the consequences his actions might have on the people around him, and more specifically, Celestine. It's bad enough that he seems unconcerned that the previous governess was dismissed because of that "harmless" kiss with him. Not his fault, of course, because the twit had ideas above her station and thought she could land herself a lord, so it was her own fault if she was dismissed! Nice reasoning on his part, don't you think?

With Celestine, all he cares is about tweaking his sis-in-law's nose and not let her best him. If the consequences to Celestine are a) dismissal b) loss of a possible marriage to the vicar (probably the only chance at a life of her own that the woman would have!), well, Justin doesn't care. The arrogant idiot is an expert at making excuses for his behaviour. First that a flirtation will leave Celestine with good memories to rejoice in once she's an old, dried-up old maid (so he's doing her a favour by chasing her around, see?). Then that his compliments will raise her self-esteem (still doing her a favour). I think I would actually have prefered a bastard who's aware of the fact that he's being a bastard, rather than someone so deluded that he needs to keep making such self-serving justifications as the ones Justin comes up with for his selfish behaviour.

All throughout the book I was expecting that this idiot would get his come-uppance, and I hoped he really, really suffered. I don't know if that would have redeemed him for me, but at least I would have enjoyed seeing him squirm. But though he did fall in love with Celestine and his proposal got rejected, it was really late in the book, and he didn't have to work at all to win Celestine, because she was in love with him from the beginning, even when he was behaving like a total bastard.

And this brings us to Celestine. I'm not someone who thinks evil is necessarily more interesting than goodness, but sometimes a character is so goody-goody good and perfect that he or she becomes irritating and boring. That was the case with Celestine. All she thinks about is other people and their needs, she's self-effacing and modest to a fault, never an uncharitable, bitchy thought, never a moment of selfishness, never even one thought to what she needs or wants. The exasperating woman even refuses to tend to her arthritis, even though it threatens to cripple her if she doesn't, because, oh, there are so many things to do! Things more interesting and important than taking care of her own health, like sewing puppets for the already over-pampered children by the meager light of one candle, in the cold! And if that aggravates her arthritis, too bad, because those girls need their puppets! I get it, Miss Simpson, she's *good*. No need to hit me over the head with it!

All in all, a very disappointing book. And the sappy tone left me near diabetic shock, so I think I'm going to go look for some scary romantic suspense!


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