January 21, 2014
Epilogue: a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work. (Webster)
Ever since I read Connor's Way back in 1996, Laura Lee Guhrke has been on my list of auto-buy authors. Considering that Connor's Way is an American-Western-post Civil War romance, that's saying a lot. Usually, I can count on Ms. Guhrke to deliver some mighty fine writing along with some really well-developed characters. Sad to say, this book didn't quite live up to the strong prose I have come to expect from Ms. Guhrke.
I'm not sure why the story didn't work. It had all the ingredients for a clever story and a wonderful couple. There is Lady Belinda Featherstone, a matchmaker of sorts. She is making a living at matching American heiresses to English titles. (Even though her marriage to a lorded gentleman was a failure, she is still trying to hook couples up.) Then we have Nicholas, Marquess of Trubridge, who has just had his funds cut off my his father and is in need of some cash...you see, he needs to eat. He is also rumored to be quite a womanizer, which is too bad for him and his association with Belinda. You see, Belinda's husband was a bad-egg and even though she doesn't know Nicholas, she knows of him and as far as she is concerned, he is from the same mold as her late husband. This is a problem because Nicholas has come to Belinda for help in finding a wife and there is no way Belinda is going to throw any young thing in Nicholas' path. Too bad for both of them that Nicholas is instantly smitten by Belinda...or should I say lusting for Belinda. And, this is where I have my problem with this story. Oh, not the instantaneous combustion - that happens all the time in romance books. It's just that I didn't feel the heat between the two. I was told there was heat, but I couldn't find it in the words of the book.
There were a lot of "could have been" moments in the book. There could have been some really funny parts. The heiresses Belinda picks for Nicholas are just horrendous, and those moments could have been really fun, but the "horrible heiresses" moments were given short shrift. Belinda's initial reaction of publicizing Nicholas' dilemma was another moment that just sort of drifted away. Nicholas could have been really outraged with Belinda for that particular trick, but that also goes nowhere, other than to utter a Daffy Duck "this means war" statement. In my mind, when Nicholas uttered those words I saw all types of comedic events rolling out for me. Never happened.
There were some moments, especially with Nicholas, that I found nice. I found Nicholas to be a wholly sympathetic character, even with his cold-blooded need to marry money. I think part of this was due to his simply horrible father, who had Nicholas under his thumb forever. Ms. Guhrke has done a great job of showing us that Nicholas is the man he is due to his father's domination. If his father says black, Nicholas says white and while he says that he isn't under his father's control, just the acts of constant disobedience over the years have put him under his father's thumb. There was a great scene in which Belinda scolds Nicholas for allowing this to happen. That moment is a real eye-opener for him and one of the best moments in the book. Actually, now that I think about it, if his horrible father hadn't forced the issue, Nicholas would have been content to just go with the flow.
I do like the time period. This story isn't set in the good old Regency, but at a time when standards were a little less stringent. Even though I was disappointed in the first book in the American Heiress series, I will be interested in the next book in the series, which I believe is about Edie and Stuart, who happen to be one of Belinda's earlier matrimonial "successes." Although, I'm not sure success is the correct word, considering the couple aren't living together. There was also another character, Rosalie, who was rather young, but had the makings of a heroine. She seemed to have a very vulnerable side to her, so I'm hoping Ms. Guhrke writes a story about her. I'm also hoping that Ms. Guhrke writes epilogues in her next few books.
And, by the way, if you have never read Connor's Way, now is the time. It has been re-released to electronic format and since it is a good example of a lovely first book, it's one everyone should read.
Time/Place: Edwardian England