For some time now I've been reading the historical romances of Julianne MacLean . I've enjoyed them for their interesting plots, unusual characters, and the ability of the author to weave in the small details of life among the aristocracy in Victorian England. But with the onset of her new series called "Pembroke Palace," I found myself actively disliking the story and questioning my reasoning for reading this author in the first place.
As the novel opens, Lord Creighton and his daughter, Lady Rebecca, are returning to their home when there is a coaching accident. Rebecca is just seventeen, her head filled with romantic tales and still seeing sprites and magical creatures in the night. So it is no surprise to her when dashing Lord Hawthorne, the eldest son of the Duke of Pembroke comes riding in the night and offers to help them out of their predicament. Then and there Rebecca decides that he's the only man for her.
The story then skips ahead four years, and Rebecca has managed to slip away from her father's control in the company of her aunt, Lady Saxby. Together they are going to grand ball at none other than Pembroke Palace, and Rebecca is determined to catch herself a husband, preferably Lord Hawthorne himself. Ever since she met him, she has dreamed of no one but him, filling her imagination with the contents of a diary that is well, rather racy.
Devon, Lord Hawthorne, is coping in his own way with guilt over a death, one that caused a huge rift with his brother Vincent. Vincent is filled with fury, and at times out and out hatred, but exactly why the reader doesn't discover til the end. To make matters worse, there's their father, the Duke, who is babbling on about floods destroying everything, and ordering that all four of his sons marry, and soon, or none of them will inherit a shilling from him.
Devon and Rebecca meet again, are smitten with one another, and flirt and kiss and fall into instant lust with one another. Rebecca, despite her virginal state, and isolated life with her father, is rather knowledgeable about sex, a talent that she shows to the noble, always-dutiful Devon, who once he deflowers her, decides to marry her on the spot. After all, he is a gentleman, and she's a member of his own class.
A possible disruption to all this bliss is the villain of the piece, Maximillian Rushton, who has some sort of hold over Lord Creighton, and considers Rebecca to be his, no matter what. Even if she decides to marry someone else...
Yawn. I have to admit that it took me close to three days to wade through this novel. Both of the leads are such drearily good people, without hardly any vices, that I was bored with them. Worst still, the villain, Rushton, is so transparent and one-dimensional, that I simply did not care as to why he was so intent on Rebecca.
And this is where the problem lays with the novel. Despite the lusty scenarios that the author dreamed up for her lovers, and the nice trick of having an old diary to mirror Rebeeca's current experiences, there's nothing in her to interest the reader. There's a plethora of characters, from a nasty rival for Devon's affections, the various ducal siblings, hints of mysterious scandal, and lots of scenery chewing for the hero, all of which slows down the plot, and makes the overall drive of the story slow the pace down to a crawl.
By the end, I didn't care. There was nothing to interest me, and I could care less as to what will happen in the next novel. While MacLean is very adept at recreating the Victorian world for her readers, this time she seems to have forgotten that what drives a story are the plot and the characters, and it's a real shame.
I can usually forgive an author's occasional slip in writing a bad novel. But this one is so painfully bad, and contrived, that I will probably refrain from automatically purchasing Julianne MacLean's works in the future. And that's really a shame, as she can come up with some truly lovely stories.
Two stars, and I really wish I could have given this one more, but given the lack of anything interesting, and two main characters that are very forgettable, I can't do it.