- Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Jove Books (Dec 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 051513466X
- ISBN-13: 978-0515134667
- Product Dimensions: 17 x 11.4 x 2.5 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,928,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
To the improbable plot, add two main characters who are uneven at best: Morgan Gage, the Wicked Earl, is part strong, silent alpha male who mistakenly kidnaps Leah in the opening chapters, part "whipped" dog who dutifully laps at Leah's heels at ton parties, and part angiushed son who is tortured over his father's murder by an unscrupulous cousin. Leah Brodie is foul-mouthed, immature, melodramatic, and mainly tiresome. She does have some moments in the book when her outrageousness seems fresh and charming, but only to a modern audience. In real-life Regency England, she would have been regarded by the ton as far more of a pariah than the Wicked Earl.
On top of all this, add some poor editing: There were several places in the book where I found typos and poor word choices, but the most glaring errors were plot inconsistencies. The opening prelude, in which Leah first spies Morgan at a London ball, takes place in March 1816. The next two chapters, in which Morgan mistakenly kidnaps Leah thinking she is his stepmother(!), take place in June 1816, and third chapter, in which Leah meets Morgan once again at a ball at Glenwood Park in Yorkshire, takes place at least three weeks after the kidnapping, or presumably in or about July 1816. Yet, Morgan tells Leah at the Glenwood Park ball that after his father's inquest, he went abroad to Italy and France to oversee some properties left to him by his mother and that he "returned only last month after arranging for their sale." (page 55). Similarly, on page 77, Morgan recalls an accident he had with his sailboat at age twelve when his father angrily sent him into the house to "see his mother." However, on page 132, Morgan tells Leah that his mother and sister died when he was nine.
The result: A less than blissful reading experience. There were parts of the book that were well-written and interesting if one could overlook its other glaring problems, but the middle of the book absolutely bogged down with "filler" scenes that did nothing to advance the characters or the plot. I have read some of Jacqueline Navin's other books, and I seem to remember that they were much better than this. I hope that she tries harder next time.
Morgan finds his key when he meets Leah Brodie, a former top gun who also fell from grace (just not as far) because of her temper. Morgan offers a business courtship with Leah, who accepts expecting to regain her advantage with the Ton. As she curses and he sleuths, they fall in love, but first Morgan must uncover the identity of the culprit if he is to share a lifetime with Leah.
The amateur sleuth investigation conducted by Leah and Morgan enhances what would have been a typical Regency convenience tale. The who-done-it is cleverly designed to enable the audience to observe the positive qualities of the protagonists and a few not so nice traits while watching the pair bungle at finding clues. The love subplot remains the prime theme, but the mystery makes Jacqueline Navin's novel pure BLISS.
Fans of Amanda Quick will rejoice in this new adventure, pairing a quirky heroine and brooding, evil angel of a hero in a mystery delicately spiced with romance and the comedy typical of a regency.
Reviewed by Amanda Killgore.
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