July 18, 2016
Twins...I hatesssss twinssss.
In the case of The Fairest of Them All, by Cathy Maxwell, I may not have had a problem with the twin trope if only the hero, Jack, hadn't been such a stinker.
Here's the deal: at the age of 15, Jack ran away from school. He did that because he could no longer live with being the second son. It was allllll just way too much for the little rotter. He just ups and leaves. His family believes him to be dead. His mother mourns for him - deeply. He eventually lands in America where he has become a self-made man and fallen in love with the open space, which was the new land. He also becomes a politically-minded lawyer. He is gone for over fifteen years - not once during all of that time does he drop a line, give a shout, send a message which tells his grieving family that he is alive. He even marries and becomes a widower and never once does he send word. Then because he wants to prevent a war between the United States and England he returns, crashes a party his family is throwing, says HEY I'm back and I need your help meeting the right people. While Jack was portrayed as a kind hero, I could only view these actions as cruel. No matter what he did for the rest of the book, I could not get past his treatment of his family. And, I'm sorry, but the whiny reflections of a fifteen-year-old boy boo-hooing he wasn't good enough didn't excuse his actions. He also falls in love with the woman his brother falls for - although his actions in regard to Charlene I understood and was able to accept. It is the treatment of his family - mainly his mother - I cannot get past. I did not view Jack as a hero.
Charlene, our heroine, on the other hand, is a penniless aristocratic woman who is making money by being a pick-pocket. See how realistic this story was/is? She is also in the black book of some local thugs because she has crossed into their territory. She initially meets Jack by picking his friend's pocket. Jack gives chase - she escapes - but neither one of them can forget the other. It's a case of instant love, although, she has no trouble setting her sights on Gavin, the Duke of Baynton (Jack's brother). Charlene and Jack's story was a mish-mash of deceit, love, and missing chemistry. Then there is Gavin - poor ol' Gavin. This is his second jilting.
Gavin. Gavin was the one I became really interested in during the Jack/Charlene romance. Spoiler: he's a thirty-four year old virgin. We won't tell him, but he meets his heroine in this book and they hate each other. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I can feel my expectations rising for their story because it has the makings of a fun read. Here's hoping.
Bottom-line: not my favorite Cathy Maxwell book. I had a big problem with Jack's actions. For me, the reason for his actions were feeble at best. Using his youth as an excuse is not a satisfactory answer, especially when one considers he never made any attempt as he matured to contact his family. Jack never atoned for his callousness, and I need my heroes to be redeemed by the end of the story or it just doesn't work.
Time/Place: Regency England