June 20, 2016
OMG – Just Say Yes!
All I Ever Needed is the third in the Compass Club series by Jo Goodman. When I started
reading this story I liked it better than The Price of Desire. But then the annoying heroine presented herself to me. Lady Sophia Colley is one of those I-can-hop-into-bed-with-you-break-all-kinds-of-class-conscious-rules-but-I-can’t-marry-you heroines. What makes this one especially irritating is the fact that our hero East keeps asking and asking and asking and asking. As I look back on this book I have to say it’s too bad the author decided to put the I-can’t-marry-you device into this story because it was detrimental to what could have been a good story. It’s getting harder and harder for me to abide that particular heroine whine. For me to accept her no-no-no her reason for turning him down needs to be more than just a means to drag the story tension out longer. In All I Ever Needed the heroine's “turn down” went on way too long and then when the reason was revealed I had a “you’ve got to be kidding” moment.
Before I get distracted by my rant, here’s the plot and there may be a few spoilers ahead. Once upon a time there were some guys sitting under a tree laughing (our hero the Marquess of Eastlyn being one of them). Well, being the paranoid heroine that she is, Sophia just knows they are laughing at her. Of course there is that false rumor floating around that she is engaged to Eastlyn – that must be the reason they are laughing at her. Oh look – Eastlyn is approaching her. He is probably going to make fun of her, so she will be rude to him. Which she is. Eastlyn, who had approached Sophia for the purpose of straightening out the rumor, instead becomes captivated by her snootiness. Ah, he thinks - she’s a snarky person, she must not be as dull as he thought she was. He decides to marry her. This starts our poor hero down the road of asking for her hand in marriage, which she turns down.
Eastlyn, aka East, is really quite a nice hero, which makes Sophia’s stubbornness even more irritating. After all, why would any woman want to be married to a charming, intelligent, handsome man with loads of money who would give her anything she wanted. I feel myself digressing again. I don’t know who to blame in Romanceland for the overabundance of I-can’t-marry-you women, but puleese make it stop!
Back to the story. East is one of the four members of the Compass Club and he is instantly attracted to Sophia – sort of. He has forgotten that he met her years ago and hurt her little feelings because she had a crush on him and he, like most young men, was totally oblivious to a boring young girl’s crush. Anyway, Sophia is holding a grudge against him for being a typical male. Well, it turns out that the rumor was started by East’s cast-off mistress – an almost villain but not quite. Don’t worry about not being enough villains in this story because the mistress is only half a villain. There are oodles of villains. There’s the group of school chum bully villains from East’s younger days; the heroine’s dastardly villain Uncle and the secret head-honcho villain who reveals himself at the end with a lonnnng soliloquy as to why he did what he did when he did. He gets his comeuppance, the others get sent to the Island of Misplaced Villains. What do the villains have to do with the plot-line you may ask? Well, I don’t really know if the school boy bullies have anything to do with a lot of the story, but the Uncle and the secret villain do. You see, Sophia thinks someone poisoned her father.
Sophia and her father. As I have said before, I found Sophia to be truly annoying, but the flashback scenes between her and her father are very memorable. I loved the relationship between the two of them, it was so touching, so poignant – there were times that I had moisture forming in my eyes. And, it wasn’t from allergies. I just wish Sophia had been presented as this caring, loving person throughout the entire story.
The real kicker. We already know I found Sophia to be annoying but I still held out hope that somewhere along the way she would turn over a new leaf – but then she stepped on every one of my nerves. As anyone who has ever read a romance book which has the I-won’t-marry-you heroine in it knows - that even though these women won’t marry the hero, they have no qualms about jumping into bed with them. Even though I could strike up a rant about the realities of a historical, sheltered, innocent woman jumping into bed with a man without the hope of marriage, I won’t. What I will rant about is this: Sophia finds herself pregnant. What does she do? Well, she writes our hero a letter informing him of the fact and telling him she is going to raise the child on her own. Yep, she makes up her mind to bring a child up – in Regency England – as illegitimate. She makes the decision to separate that child from his father and his grandparents without any thought as to what this might do to that child. She has no visible means of support, but somehow manages to rent a cottage. I think she may have been a secret writer, I forget. On top of that, she knows by this time that she has feelings for East and she suspects he has feelings for her. But no, she can never marry him. She would rather her child grow up shouldering the pretty heavy burden of illegitimacy than say yes to marriage. It was pretty unbelievable. At this point Sophia went from being annoying to being totally unlikable.
I wanted to like this book soooooo much. I think Ms. Goodman writes terrific prose – but in this book she gave me a heroine who's actions I could find no way to justify. When the eventual reason for her refusal of East’s many proposals is revealed, it was not powerful enough to counter-balance the many “no’s” and the extremely selfish decision to separate father from child.
Time/Place: Regency England