2 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
This book has it all… in fact, the main problem I have with this book is it tries to do too much. We have side plots and intrigues (the countess and the footman, a frame-up for a crime), background love stories (that Colin’s brother Marcus is about to marry the woman Colin’s declared as his one true love), sad, involving backstories (our heroine lost her husband and child and has been making her living as a jill-of-all-trades mercenary of sorts), there’s also a race against time (I think the whole novel takes place in one week), and… added together, it’s just too much. We never get to stay, and truly focus on the hero and heroine. Their relationship is so constantly shrouded in outside forces, inherent mistrust and passion-mixed-with-danger, that even when they do decide they’ve fallen in love it just doesn’t feel real. The characters are interesting, their love scenes are sensual, but at the end, the reader is left thinking: really?
Greater Detail (with some spoilers):
Colin Eversea is about to hang for a crime (murder) he didn’t commit. He’s always been reckless and so, even some of those who are closest to him don’t seem surprised.
He’s rescued by the mysterious and resourceful Madeline Greenway. She’s a former cheese-shop proprietress whose husband and child are passes away, and who now makes a living as a mercenary of sorts. She gets things for people (jewelry a man accidentally gave to his mistress that belongs to his wife and so on). When she tries to turn Colin over and collect her fee, she’s shot at… and having few choices, the two join forces.
It’s a heck of a set-up, but that’s honestly, not my main problem.
My main problem, as I’ve said before, is that there’s just TOO MUCH happening. We’ve got Colin’s brother, who’s worried about him, trying to help/figure out what truly was going on, and is, at the same time engaged to Louisa, the woman Colin’s sworn he’s always been in love with (but who we later find out, Marcus also loves). We’ve got a distracting scene with a countess and her footman lover, and just… a whole host of side plots and intrigue and things that are ultimately more distracting than helpful in moving the relationship aspect forward.
Things keep happening to Colin and Madeline. They react, they fall into a passionate/sensual affair. But it all feels very… driven by outside events, as opposed to truly developing naturally. Because so much keeps happening in the action sense of this novel, the characters never really develop (Madeline does a little, but Colin remains more or less the fly-by-his-seats seducer, who continues to try to convince himself that he loves Louisa, even while he admits his growing desire for Madeline).
Honestly, for me, the romance here just never clicks. When the adventure is over and Colin tells Madeline he loves her… it just didn’t feel believable, and when it all magically wraps up a mere 10 or so pages later, I just felt like there was no emotional satisfaction, fast-paced plot, yes, sensual love scenes, sure, but… little else to hold them, as a couple, together.
Comparisons to Other Authors:
For me, Julie Anne Long has been a bit all over the place — I don’t know that I’ve ever regretted reading one of her books, but she really likes to play with words/puns/etc in a way that is sometimes humorous, and sometimes just bleh and too farcical for me to appreciate. I think when she reels it in a little, she can be best compared to Julia Quinn, who likes to highlight the fun side to everything, and when she concentrates more on the plot elements, she’s like an earlier Kleypas… My favorite Long book is still definitely What I Did for a Duke