Shadows of Laura Kinsale alert!
When I stepped into the first words in Meredith Duran’s Fool Me Twice, it didn’t take me long
to board the way-back machine and be reminded of Laura Kinsale’s heroes – those dark, dangerous, flawed heroes with some kind of horrendous problem. Bring on the clowns, pour me a margarita, past the Valium. Someone tell a joke! Puleese. Yep, fellow readers, we have us a really damaged hero in the form of Alistair, Duke of Marwick. Not only is Alistair damaged, he is scary damaged. He’s the kind of hero who is only a hero in Romanceland, because if he was in the real world Nancy Grace would be screaming at him. So, if you pick up this book to read, and I do recommend you do, be prepared for a book which borders on old school territory and a hero who comes quite close to being a bodice-ripper kind of guy.
Fool Me Twice (hate the title) is a sequel to That Scandalous Summer, which I never read and wish I had because I never actually understood why Alistair was such an angry camper. He seems to have what we would classify as agoraphobia, and he seems to have developed it due to something his wife did. I thought his reaction was a bit over the top. Sure, his wife slept with half the ton, sure she connived to make him look like a fool, but to turn into a Howard Hughes kind of guy because some woman was a tart was a bit of a stretch for me. I kept thinking – really? Get over it.
A distraction. Anyone remember Howard Hughes? Not in his Hollywood-bedding-starlets, flying-airplanes, making-giant-bras-for-Jane-Russell days, but his locking himself in a room letting his fingernails grow long and peeing in jars days. Our hero's actions reminded me of the later Howard, although our hero is handsome with hypnotic eyes; however I found myself wondering where did he go to the bathroom. No mention is ever made of any of his bodily functions. Did he do the Howard Hughes jar thing? Was there a potty room joining his bedroom, because he never left his bedroom? I suspect, like most heroes in Romanceland, his orifices are not used for anything other than a spot of whankee-roo.
Hey, I bet you’re wondering if there was a heroine in this book. Well, of course there was and she seems to have put in an appearance in Ms. Duran’s previous books, but I don’t remember her. It’s Olivia I’m-out-to-get-my-father-Holladay/Mather. After having numerous attempts on her life, she is hiding out at Alistair’s place pretending to be a housekeeper but actually looking for some kind of document so she can destroy her father. But mostly that particular plot-line falls by the wayside when her eyes land on our hero and she embarks on a save the grubby-snarly man campaign. Except for the lame reason given for Olivia’s being in his household, she’s actually quite a dynamic character, and she has to be to stand up to our scary hero.
Fool Me Twice had its weak moments and its strong moments. I found the intensity of Alistair fascinating and well-written. While at times he was very menacing, Olivia never backed down, no matter how much she wanted to. There was some wonderful tension created by the author as Alistair slowly comes out of his shattered self because we know that Olivia is keeping a secret from him and always in the back of our minds is – what will he do when he finds out? So I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the ax/sword/shoe to fall. The weakness in the book for me was what I have already mentioned: the whole premise of his wife’s idiocy turning him into the sulky, frightening creature he was portrayed just didn’t seem right. It was a stretch for me to believe he would react the way he did. There was also a slight slowdown in the middle of the book and I almost put the book down, but didn’t. The words were vivid, the hero and heroine were complex, their relationship multi-layered, and the sex is messy, stinky hot.
I may have been disappointed in a few of Ms. Duran’s latest books, but this one is a winner. This is a wonderful, mesmerizing story with a great dark, intimating guy forced by our heroine to emerge into the world. Lucky for us, along the way they fall in love. Now, if only there had been a laugh somewhere, this book would have been perfect.
Time/Place: England 1885