Ever Yours, by Gabriella Anderson

>> Friday, March 23, 2007

Ok, next week, to show Cindy why I'm not in a slump, I'll be talking only about the great books I've recently read, but to end this week, another of the blahs: Ever Yours, by Gabriella Anderson.

Could a letter change her life?

Ivy St Clair doesn't think so, but she's certain that the missive from eccentric Lord Stanhope, who has named her as one of his heirs, will at least provide adventure. And adventure is the one thing sure to be missing from her life when she marries Neville Foxworthy as her family expects her to do.

To inherit from Stanhope, she must deliver a portrait to reclusive Auburn Seaton, Earl of Tamberlake. No one has seen the man, badly injured in a carriage accident, for more than five years. But Tamberlake's scars are far less interesting than his melancholy, and Tamberlake himself--gentle, kind, and dangerously appealing--is everything her distasteful fiance is not. Before long Ivy realizes that the unlikely friendship they find together has deepened into the kind of love she will risk name and fortune to claim...
I've lost count of how many times I've said this recently: this book started out well enough, but after a while, it completely derailed. The main problem here was a conflict that didn't convince me. A C-.

Lady Ivy St. Clair is very surprised to receive a bequest from a man she's never met, her mother's former suitor, Lord Stanhope. Because of his fond memories of her mother, Stanhope has left her a house of her own and some money, but only if she'll perform a small service for him. She must go to Wales and deliver a package to the Earl of Tamberlake.

Ivy has recently succumbed to her father's pressure to marry, but she manages to convince her parents to allow her to have this last adventure before her betrothal is announced. And so, she sets off with her brother and Lord Stanhope's former housekeeper, who'll act as a companion.

The Earl of Tamberlake has been a recluse since the carriage accident that disfigured his face, and the sudden appearance of Lady Ivy and her companions is not a pleasant surprise. And even less pleasant is that the package Ivy brings is a portrait of him before his accident.

But Ivy seems to be different from other women. For starters, she doesn't seem to be repulsed by his appearance. A carriage breakdown forces Ivy and her party to stay in Tamberlake's house for a while longer, and as they spend some time together, she even appears to be attracted to him. But Ivy has promised to marry her fiancé, and she's not one to make a promise lightly. And then her fiancé suddenly appears to bring her back to town...

The first part was basically all right, a nice "Beauty and the Beast" story. Ivy and Tamberlake connect nicely and I bought that they'd fall in love. Both are interestingly-drawn characters, and likeable enough, and I liked how Tamberlake was so gruff on the outside and so obviously a marshmallow on the inside.

However, after the first 150 or so pages, we get what to me was basically a fake conflict. Ivy is in love with Tamberlake, Tamberlake is in love with Ivy, and they both know it (or at least, know that the other would like nothing more than a marriage between them).

But there are still 170 more pages to go, and there needs to be conflict. Sure, ok. Problem is, the way the conflict was created involved making the characters behave like fools, especially Ivy. She loves Tamberlake and he actually told her that he's in danger of losing his heart to her and that it might even be too late already. She dislikes her fiancé and even thinks badly of him for his unkind comments about Tamberlake. The only reason she agreed to marry him was because her father told her to, and she's well aware that her father is a selfish lout and cares nothing for her. She doesn't even appear to particularly care for her father. So what the hell is the problem? "Oh, I said I'd marry him and my father has already announced the betrothal" just doesn't cut it, when she doesn't care a whit about society's opinions and marrying an incredibly rich Earl would obviously fix any scandal that would be generated. Ivy needed to grow a spine, fast.

And Tamberlake doesn't get off scot-free. He's got the perfect way of convincing Ivy to change her mind about marrying her fiancé, because he knows a huge secret about him, and he doesn't use it, for no reason. Instead, he runs around for weeks making things extremely hard for Ivy, apparently not caring that he's creating a situation in which she'll get immense pressure and disapproval from her father.

And it wasn't just this that I found unconvincing. I thought most of the characters' motivations were iffy. Ivy's father is a cartoon, and I never understood why he was so adamant about Ivy marrying her fiancé. And what about Stanhope? Why is he so insistent on matchmaking between Ivy and Tamberlake? (don't tell me it's not obvious from the very first that this is what he's doing). He doesn't really know her, how does he know she won't take a look at his face and be repelled?

Of course, all this isn't enough to carry that many pages, so we get The Other Woman bent on mischief and a booooring suspense subplot about someone wanting to kill them.

Anderson voice is nice and smooth, but her story... not so much.


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