December 29, 2106
The Search for a Good Book continues
When one is in the middle of a dry spell, when your auto-buy authors are either not writing,
switched to contemporaries or not living up to ones expectations, what does one do? Well, they can either turn to their old books (which I have) or they can read a new author in hopes of finding someone to fill the void. I’ve been reading my old books and now it’s time to find some new ones. I picked Lorraine Heath’s The Viscount and the Vixen. Lorraine Heath may not be a new author, but I’ve never read her – maybe I keep getting her mixed up with an author from the old days, Sandra Heath. I don’t know why, I’ve just never picked up any of her books, 'til now.
The Viscount and the Vixen is part of the Hellions of Haversham Hall series, however I don’t believe you have to read any of those to appreciate this one. There didn’t seem to be any left-over mystery to be solved or villains lurking about. The characters seemed to be pretty well-developed, so this one appears to be a stand-alone.
There are four main characters in The Viscount and the Vixen – Locke (our hero), Portia (our heroine), Marsden (Locke’s father), and Linnie (the ghost of Marsden’s dead wife). There are quite an assortment of storylines going on in this book. There is Locke protecting his father, hiding him away from society, making sure he doesn’t injure himself. Why's that, you may ask. Well, this is because Marsden is a little bit off – he wanders around the house, he lives in the past sometimes, and he talks to his dead wife. From what we are led to believe, she talks back. We really never get to see her, except through Marsden’s eyes. This, for me, led to a disappointment later on. We will talk about that later.
Then we have Portia, who is running away from something – she seems to be in danger, she’s desperate, and she has a big secret. This secret leads to another issue I had with the book.
There were a lot of things to like in this book and a couple of things which fall into the category of “If I had written this, I’d have done it this way.” But hey, I didn’t write the book, so that means I can be disappointed.
Here’s the premise of the story. The wily, off-balance Marsden advertises for a wife for himself. His son finds out and becomes outrageously upset, but it is too late because our desperate heroine Portia arrives on the scene, contract in hand. Locke jumps to the conclusion that she’s a mercenary slut and saves his father by marrying her himself. (Which is what Marsden planned all along.) From here on it’s a tale of Locke and Portia having sex one moment and Locke striking out at Portia the next. He likes to call her names, a money-grubbing w…, a no-account woman, and then they have sex, then he calls her names again, then sex. You get the idea. There was so much sex in this book I had to do some skip reading. I also did some skip reading when the father reminisced about his sex life with Locke’s mother. Maybe this was supposed to be funny, but it touched off my ick-o-meter.
For me this was an ok read with glimmers of good writing – but there was a certain unevenness in the story-telling and a couple of things I wish had been done differently. Spoilers ahead! Portia isn’t really a widow, but a runaway mistress. She’s running away because she’s pregnant and the man who is the father will probably put the baby in a baby farm (which I gather means it will die). So, Portia’s desperation in selecting Marsden as a husband is because she is protecting her baby. She believes that since Marsden is hidden away, she will be also. However, Locke steps in and she can no longer keep a low profile. Here’s the problem I had with this storyline. First of all, I found it irritating that we the readers were kept from knowing the secret. I don’t think the story would have been any less tense if we had been let in on it – in fact, I think us knowing the secret would add to the tension. If we had been let in on the secret we would be wondering all through the book just what Locke’s reaction was going to be. (I guessed what it was from the beginning.)
The other problem I had with the protecting-the-baby theme was that when we finally meet the ex-lover/villain he just didn’t seem all that bad to me. In fact, he actually loved Portia. I guess I’m used to some sociopathic villains turning into heroes, ala Anne Stuart’s edgy guys (and that’s just one author). I never knew in this book whether he was as bad as Portia says – he just never exhibited a scary villain personality.
Then we have the ghost. If Marsden is in fact talking to the ghost of his wife – why didn’t we, the readers, get to see it? I would have enjoyed the ending more if the ghost had been visible. As it was all we get to see is what may be the ghostly lip prints on a dead man’s cheek. While that may make for a pretty poetic scene it was a depressing ending.
Overall, for me this was an ok read. Sometimes there were moments of loveliness but those were followed by disjointed storylines and a hero who couldn’t make up his mind whether Portia was a good girl or a gold digger (while all the time he doing the wonka-donka all over the place). I probably will not check out the rest in the series.
Time/Place: 1880s England