August 11, 2014
Relax - you will only hear my voice - keep your eyes on the watch...Come back to historicals, Betina...come back.
It's always so refreshing to open a Betina Krahn book and I've always had fond memories of
two of her early works. Caught in the Act and its sequel, Behind Closed Doors. However, you know how memories are. In this case they were correct. It was a joy to reread Caught in the Act, tempered with a little melancholy because Ms. Krahn seems to be taking a rest from writing. As much as we readers sometime forget authors are human beings too, sometimes their personal lives hit bumps in the roads just like the rest of us. Ms. Krahn went through some very rough times not too long ago, but now her life seems to be on the sunny side once again...so maybe she will pick up that pencil or hit that keyboard and gift us with some more bright, sparkly work.
Now to the book. Caught in the Act takes place in Tudor England during the last days of Mary Tudor's reign. Any student of history will tell you that Mary's reign was full of dark dangerous scary intrigue. Not only in the court, but also in the countryside, which is where most of this story takes place. Our heroine, Merrie, is an orphan who has been raised by an older couple. They have loved Merrie and given her free range with her inquisitive mind. While she may be a total innocent in some ways, she is intelligent beyond her years. She speaks Latin and Greek, reads classical books, and is what one would call a learned woman. But Merrie cannot stay with this wonderful couple who love her. You see, she's a romance heroine and for this story to work there must be some kind of tension. That tension comes in the form of a crafty family of servants and a conniving solicitor. These villains have a plan. They have been skimming money from the estate of their doddering employer, an earl, for years. And then what does this earl do? He dies. Well, what can these crafty villains do? They can pretend that he is still alive while they search for his heir. Guess who his heir is? Can't think who it might be? Well, I'll tell you - our lovely, innocent Merrie. So, they bring our honest, trusting, innocent Merrie to the estate, in the care of a simply horrible companion/governess and they continue to feed off of the estate. Now, for some reason they decide that in order to keep Merrie under their control even more they must marry her off to a man of their choosing. They look for a rake, gambler, someone who doesn't care about anything, someone who is in desperate need of money. They find that person of the form of Jack Huntington.
Well, nothing turns out the way they or anyone else plans. And let me say this about Merrie and Jack, they are a wonderful couple. The story seemed to be organized in sections; the funny section, the heartbreak section, and the defeat-the-villain section. Each portion of the book was marvelous and had me smiling through most of it. In the first part of the book, Merrie overhears her scheming caretakers planning her marriage to someone she doesn't know and she runs away. Now, because this is a romance book and we all know how coincidental things happen within those covers, whose room should she accidentally hide in when she's running away? Jack of course. And, what is Jack doing? Well, he's seducing a married woman. Merrie, who is hiding in the closet, gets quite an eyeful. Not knowing that Jack is her intended she hightails it back to the estate and into the scheming arms of the villains. When Jack shows up at the estate to claim his bride, Merrie sees who it is and doesn't want to have anything to do with him. So, her clever plan is to do things that will give him a disgust of her, but all those things do is intrigue Jack. There were some pretty funny parts in this portion, dare I say it, some chuckle-out-loud times. Anyway, it is during this time period that Jack and Merrie get to know each other, become friends, and eventually fall in love. Then Jack is forced by the villains to leave Merrie behind and he does. I have to say that Ms. Krahn writing was so exceptional during this portion that I could actually feel Merrie's pain as Jack is leaving her. Some great writing.
And that is only half of the book! There's more wonderful writing that comes. Jack has to not only defeat the bad guys but grovel and win Merrie's love back. Spoiler - he does. Caught in the Act is a funny, touching book. It's filled with laughter, intrigue, poignancy, heartbreak, and a satisfying ending. I highly recommend this delightful story.
Time/Place: Mary Tudor's England