March 18, 2013
Tis better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all - like in this book.
Luv! Luv! Oh, where art thou, luv? One of the reasons I read Sally MacKenzie is because usually her stories have a strong sense of humor mixed with romance. When Sally MacKenzie is at the top of her game, she makes me laugh. Sorry to say, Surprising Lord Jack had little humor and hardly any romance.
Here's my take on the plot: our heroine, Frances, overhears her evil aunt plotting to marry her off to a local nincompoop. Now, Frances has a brother, but he's a creep and her father is absent. Actually it wouldn't matter if her father was around because for whatever reason he doesn't' particularly care for Frances. Of course our heroine has an inheritance that is being cared for by a solicitor in London. Well, as all self-respecting heroines know, the only way to run away to London is to disguise oneself as a boy. For some reason, women in romance novels never look their age when they put on a pair of pants; I never quite understand that. I know I look my age when I have a pair of pants on. The only thing that would make me look like a 14-year-old boy would be a face lift. Back to the plot.
As luck would have it, our disguised-as-a-boy heroine soon has a lame horse and the roads are bad and she's got a blister on her foot because she's wearing her snarly brother's boots. But look, what's that? Why it's an inn! An inn crowded with boisterous men, but an inn nonetheless. The landlady takes pity on the poor unfortunate boy and lets him have a room that is normally reserved for the absent Lord Jack. Our disguised heroine is much tuckered out so her and her blisters fall into a deep sleep. Miles away at the annual matchmaking ball given by his mother is our hero, Lord Jack. Lord jack does not want to be there, so he escapes into the night. Guess where he ends up? Well it is his reserved room at the inn, after all. Eventually, he ends up in the room with the 12/13/14 year-old boy. Of course like most heroes he only sees what he is told - a rather coltish boy sleeping. He doesn't suspect the boy is a woman. And why should he? Frances isn't well-endowed in the chest area. She's one of those heroines with long legs. You know I've noticed that if heroines have long legs they don't have big chests and if they have big chests they are usually short and the top of their heads only come up to the hero's chin. I guess a heroine can't have both long legs and a big chest. Speaking of long legs, when her disguise is eventually revealed, we do have the standard male fantasy of leg wrapping. On with the plot.
So anyway, we have Lord Jack and Frances the woman-disguised-as-a-boy stuck together because Jack must protect this young fellow. Frances, on the other hand, doesn't want anything to do with her savior. You see she hatesssss men - all men - her father treats her badly, her brother treats her badly - all men are evil. And, besides all men being bad, Jack is a rake, lothario, man-about-town. Little does she know that all those horrible rumors about him are not true. Nope, Jack is a good-deed-doer. Why, that house in London which appears to be a brothel is actually a house where he puts the or-ph-ans he has rescued. He also runs around rescuing prostitutes and makes sure they are protected. But he doesn't want anyone to know he is a good-deed-doer; he wants to maintain the facade of lascivious lord. I have to ask why? Why does he want to be perceived as bad? Why can't he let his family know? It's not as if they are some dysfunctional family. They all have novels of their own. Why I bet if his family knew what he was doing they'd want to help - but nooo, it's a big secret. I found this annoying. And, why aren't any of these or-ph-an and save-the-prostitute homes in a better part of the city or out in the country where the air is clean? Why are they still forced to live down some dark street? On with the plot.
So, after swinging by Jack's rescue spa, our couple head toward Jack's home, and it is at this time that the light bulb finally goes off in Jack's brain. Francis is really a Frances! He's a she! Now, he must marry her! He's been in her company for days! He's been in her bed! It doesn't matter that he didn't know she wasn't a boy. They must wed! But faithful readers, he forgot that our heroine hatesss men - all men - she refuses. It's time for Jack to call in reinforcements in the guise of his family. Allll those people from previous novels come barreling in. And the first priority is ... a dress-fitting. Yes, what romance novel could be without the requisite dress maker and all her minions changing our 14 year old boy into a glorious long-legged beauty. This of course leads to the awakening of our hero's Mr. Toad. I have to say that Jack's Mr. Toad was the only sign that there was romance in this story. If it hadn't been for Mr. Toad puffing up behind palm trees I would never have known there was any kind of attraction between these two. Jack and Frances had about as much chemistry as a wet rag.
On with the plot. Well Jack just cannot talk Frances into marrying him. She hatesss men and she wants to live in her cottage by the sea. What we need are more reinforcements! I bet I forgot to mention Frances' family on her maternal side - the loving grandparents who have always wanted to see her but have been refused admittance by the cru-el aunt. So, all is well - ruination is avoided. Frances is accepted back into the bosom of her family - there's no need for Jack.
Did I happen to mention the "silent slasher?" Yep, thrown into the mix is a maniac who's going around slashing women's throats. I guess he's the "silent slasher" because he's not noisy. Well, Jack has made it his responsibility to stop him and that is because he is a good-deed-doer. Almost by himself he is trying to find the villain. Jack, Jack, he's our man! All he needs is a red cape. He must find the killer before the killer finds Frances. Why Frances you may ask? Well, it seems that our villain is killing women who have sinned and Frances has sinned by sleeping in Jack's bed back at the inn when she was a boy. So, she has to be a target and Jack must be her protector. If Jack had only read a romance novel he would know to look for the man with the garlic breath.
In the end, I was disappointed in Surprising Lord Jack. The story meandered all over the place, never making up its mind whether it was a lighthearted romance or a dark moody love story with a murder or two thrown in. There were too many directions and a weak romance. Jack and Frances didn't work as a romantic couple. There wasn't any spark between the two of them and definitely nothing that would last a lifetime. So far, this is the weakest book in the Duchess of Love series by Sally MacKenzie.
Time/Place: Regency England