Sunday, February 19, 2012
Sometimes ... Men can be such fools. Wealthy and powerful Marcus St. John, the Marquis of Treymount, must recover a lost family heirloom. All he has to do is convince the irritatingly beautiful Miss Honoria Baker-Sneed to relinquish his treasure for a reasonable sum. How difficult could that be?
Sometimes ... Women can be so emotional. Honoria is astounded when Marcus shows up on her doorstep and arrogantly demands she surrender a ring that is rightfully hers. Irritated at such high-handed methods, she refuses.
And sometimes ... Love can be a complete surprise. Heated arguments end in a scorching kiss that embroils them in a horrid scandal. Marcus finds he must wed the brazen beauty, only to realize that somehow, Honoria has stolen her way into his heart. Can he convince Honoria that he is worthy of her regard? Or will he lose the only woman he has ever loved?
Overall, I find I like Karen Hawkins' romances, but I'm afraid I was disappointed in this last book and finale to the Talisman Ring series. The series is about how the four St. John brothers each find love while having their mother's heirloom talisman ring in their possession. The series started off well with brothers Anthony and Brandon's stories, but it lost it's appeal midway as the heroes had some major flaws to overcome. A shame for it started out so promising.
In Lady in Red, Honoria Baker-Sneed struggles to make ends meet while her widower father, who has lost the family fortune through bad investments, tries to recoup his finances with business ventures abroad. Left on her own, she must take care of her many younger siblings. Her sister, Cassandra, a beauty, is sure to make a splash with her upcoming "come out." But they have no money to finance it. Honoria has hopes that Cassandra will marry well, thus putting other rich men in the paths of her younger sisters (shades of Pride and Prejudice and the logic of Mrs. Bennet). But in order to marry well, she must make her debut. A quandary, indeed. Honoria is somewhat of an expert in antiques and is able to make a little money from buying and selling collectibles, but not nearly enough to support the whole family or finance Cassandra's wardrobe for a Season.
Marcus, the Marquis of Treymount, who also dabbles in antiques is no stranger to Honoria. Adversaries in the antique world, she has outbid and wrangled with him in the past at various auctions. (Where does Honoria comes up with the money to make these purchases in the first place?) Now she finds herself at loggerheads with him again when he unexpectedly comes calling to claim his talisman ring back. A ring which had unexpectedly fallen into her possession while at a ball in Scotland (from the previous book in the series). Honoria grasps at the chance to make enough money for her sister Cassandra's debut by offering the ring to the marquis for an exorbitant amount of money. He refuses and the bargaining goes on for a good part of the book until they are caught in a compromising position and they must marry to stop the gossip-mongers. Even though both of them claim they detest one another, they are falling in love.
It really took me a long time to get into this book because the first part of it went on forever about Honoria's family. I kept thinking who cares about all of Honoria's many siblings? How many times are we going to have to read about her little brother's frog that keeps getting lost somewhere? Boy, I grew tired of that damned frog. I wish someone had just stepped on it and be done with it! Then, I couldn't believe how long it took for any interaction to actually begin between Honoria and Marcus, our hero and heroine! It seemed to take me days just to get to the part when I think they finally have some dialogue together. Once they do interact - it's all about the damn ring and the bargaining! Honestly, for the first three quarters of the book all they do is argue about the stupid ring, interspersing their squabbles with romantic episodes in which "Marcus the Marquis" succeeds in having Honoria land in his lap! Either it's in a bumpy carriage ride (hence the whole side line of Marcus' crazy carriage driver, Herberts) or he hauls her onto his lap himself. Plus, it didn't help that I never really warmed up to either the hero or the heroine. He was prickly, stiff and starchy and she was, well... boring. And then there were a few occurrences that take place throughout the novel that bothered me to the point where all I could think about were these occurrences rather than the actual story! I won't go over all of them, but here are some of the highlights...
Carriage rides. The long running joke throughout the book is how Marcus, who's so proper and perfect, has to use his brother Brandon's carriage driver, Herberts, for a few months. Herberts drives like a maniac throughout the streets of London at top speed. He prides himself on what a great job he's doing in getting Marcus from one place to another and always has his hand out for a tip! (I admit, he was funny and one of the most enjoyable characters in the book.) He may get the carriage from one place to another in record time, but the occupants of the carriage are bounced around and shaken up to such a point, they're lucky they don't have any broken bones by the time they reach their destination! Now that you get the gist of it, I was sorely disappointed that the only one or two real sensual scenes in the whole book take place in the aforesaid bumpy carriage! Ouch! Poor Honoria - a virgin too! Of course, it was bliss and ecstasy and all that, but couldn't we see some slow and tender lovemaking for the poor girl? Just the idea of being in the carriage with this crazy carriage driver at the helm, knowing full well what was going on inside ... it was just so unromantic - blech!
Violet eyes. It simply drove me crazy how this color was used over and over as an eye color throughout the entire book! Most of the time, Honoria's eyes were described as hazel, but then the author must have forgotten at one point what color they were, for then she made them violet - and then back again to hazel! It's no wonder she got a little confused for half the Baker-Sneed siblings were violet-eyed and half were hazel - plus Marcus' former paramour had violet eyes! What is it with violet eyes? If I read it once, I read it a million times: "her violet eyes," "her wide violet eyes," "his violet gaze" Violet, violet, violet! Where's a copy editor when you need one? In fact, I don't believe I have ever met someone face to face with violet eyes in my life, yet in Regency romances, it seems like they're everywhere!
Cassandra, Cassandra, Cassandra! (as in "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!) Near the end of the book, what should have been a glorious moment turns into a disaster! With Honoria finally wearing the titular red dress and Marcus declaring his love for her in front of everyone at her sister Cassandra's debut ball, fate steps in and turns the wonderful finale into an unexpected, cringe-worthy nightmare! Honoria's quiet and soft spoken sister, Cassandra steps in and ruins the scene? Honestly, someone get a gun! She steps in like a dragon and tells Marcus to leave her sister alone!? Huh? With the music stopped and everybody watching and listening!? I was horrified, and once again, poor Honoria is cheated out of a beautiful moment (I'm surprised it didn't take place in the carriage!) If I were Honoria, I would have had the footmen remove Cassandra from the premises pronto! Honestly, and just who does Cassandra think is paying for her ball?
Lady in Red had it's better moments, but it left a lot to be desired. Poor editing and continuity didn't help. Marcus was a bit too uptight and arrogant for my liking (except when he was in his carriage). To counterbalance his dour mien, there were some funny moments that made me laugh aloud in addition to the antics of the coachman. I laughed when Honoria had to pretend that she was ultra ticklish if anyone touched her. This was to ward off the touchy feeley advances of a lord who was interested in buying the ring off her at a ball. Ironic that Honoria wouldn't sell the ring to Marcus except for her required price, and then she wound up being stuck with it for good - he used it as his wedding ring for her. Hmmph! I wonder what she thought of that?
Overall, I give this series a C+, for I really enjoyed the first two books, but after that the story lines just didn't wow me and I found too many faults with the heroes. Still, I like this author and will continue to read the rest of her backlist.