I finally slogged my way to the finish line this morning on My Fair Temptress by Christina Dodd. I certainly didn't hate it. No, My Fair Temptress was just boring. And blah. And pretty much Exhibit A when it comes to everything I'm finding wrong with historical romance these days.
First, someone in Avon's back cover copy writing department needs to get fired. This book is not a Regency as the copy explains. No, last time I checked 1849 and a mention of Queen Victoria do not a Regency make. But really, it's easy to see how the person writing the copy might have gotten confused. Avon is Regency Cookie Cutter Central, and the story itself doesn't have any sort of historical flavor. Frankly My Fair Temptress could have taken place in any time period and the reader couldn't argue too much. There's just nothing to distinguish it.
The heroine, Miss Caroline Ritter is ruined thanks to the odious Lord Frenshfield. So even though she was the toast of her one Season, she's now on her own looking for honorable work. Unfortunately the only thing Caroline is good at is flirting. I know, how are readers supposed to respect a heroine who is only good at flirting, and openly admits it. Anyway, she eventually secures a position with the Duke of Nevett who wants to see his "Frenchified" son married by the end of the Season.
Jude Durant, the earl of Huntington, has no time for a tutor. He's acting like a dandy (and an all around jack ass) to avenge his brother's murder and capture the culprits. Caroline proves nothing but a distraction until she ingratiates herself to the villains.
What doesn't work? Well pretty much all of it. Jude and Caroline seem like nice characters - but that's just the problem. They never elevate themselves above being mere characters. They are also mired in cliche' - how many dandy-pretending heroes and fallen heroines have readers come across before? Hundreds, and unfortunately Jude and Caroline do nothing to distinguish themselves from the herd.
I also found the plot laughable. Honestly, I'm supposed to believe that Jude is scaring off debutantes AND their scheming mamas because he dresses and acts like a dandy? Puhleeze. Women overlook a lot more to snag a husband even in this day and age - let alone in the 19th century when a woman's options were much more limited.
Also, I suspect many readers (especially those not in love with the story) will get very ticked off when they hit the ending. Oh sure, Jude and Caroline ride off into the sunset happily-ever-after, but a huge piece of the conflict goes unresolved and Dodd ends on a cliff hanger. So readers who want any sort of closure are stuck waiting on a sequel to clear up the entire matter. Frankly, I find this sort of thing a bit manipulative - but that's just me. Perhaps if I had enjoyed the book I might feel differently.
About the only bright spot here is Jude's stepmother - whom I rather liked. She seemed like a smart woman who had learned long ago how to maneuver through the "system." Other than that, I found My Fair Temptress a rather unforgettable read. I know several readers who find Dodd "hit or miss." This one was a definite miss in my book.