Wednesday, 5 July 2017
#CBR9 Book 61: "The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband" by Julia Quinn
Rating: 3 stars
Shortly after the death of her father, Miss Cecilia Harcourt gets a letter informing her that her brother, Thomas Harcourt has been injured during battle i the American colonies. Her odious cousin keeps coming around hinting strongly at how beneficial it would be for Cecilia to marry him, so instead she buries the family silver in the garden and sets off over the Atlantic to find her brother and nurse him back to health. Unfortunately, no one seems to be willing to speak to her and her brother appears to be missing. Instead she finds his best friend, Captain Edward Rokesby, who's unconscious in the hospital and clearly also needs her aid. In order to be allowed to tend to him, Cecilia lies and claims to be his wife. She knows the charade will be up as soon as Rokesby wakes up, but at least she can give him the tenderest of care until then.
When Edward wakes up, he's surprised to find the woman he identifies as his best friend Thomas' sister Cecilia by his bedside. He's even more confused when she appears to be his wife, but the doctors confirm that the blow he took to the head when out on some very secretive mission appears to have caused him to forget the last six months of his memory. As Edward had frequently sent messages to Cecilia in Thomas' letters to her, and she had started sending little greetings for him, he's not entirely surprised that he's married to her, having already half fallen in love with her through he correspondence, he just can't remember when or how the marriage took place.
Cecilia feels dreadful about her lies, but discovers that the army officials are much more likely to assist her in her search for her brother if she is Captain Rokesby's wife, not just Miss Harcourt, sister of a missing officer. So even though it pains her to deceive a clearly very honest and upstanding gentleman, she keeps up the lie that she married Edward and promises herself that as soon as they locate Thomas, she will tell him the truth and set him free, even if he's unlikely to ever want to see her again afterwards.
This is the second "hero with amnesia" romance I've read in the last few months. I thought Meredith Duran's A Lady's Code of Misconduct worked a lot better, and both the protagonists of that book were more morally complex and interesting. Julia Quinn doesn't really write about bad people. All of her characters tend to be upstanding and thoroughly decent, and apart from the lie at the centre of their relationship, there really is NO conflict between Cecilia and Edward. They're pretty much already madly in love with each other from the letters they've been exchanging and while Cecilia keeps being terribly upset about her lies, and her belief that Edward is really in love with Billie Bridgerton, his neighbour back home (who married his brother in the previous book in the series), so she's stolen him from some other woman, it's quite clear from all of Edward's thoughts that whether he remembers marrying her or not, he's absolutely crazy about Cecilia.
As well as the relationship built on a lie plot, there is Cecilia's missing brother to locate, and Edward trying to remember exactly what happened in the six months he's now forgotten. None of this was terribly interesting to me. While the setting, of Revolutionary War America is more unusual in a historical romance, I didn't really feel as if Quinn really utilised it as much as she could have. It was nevertheless a nice change from the English countryside or London drawing rooms that most of these books are set in.
It's been a long time since Quinn really knocked my socks off with one of her romances. This is perfectly pleasant, but all in all, rather forgettable. I'll still keep getting her books on sale, but she's completely off my auto-buy list for the time being.
Judging a book by its cover: I'm really not an expert on late 18th Century women's fashion, but I'm pretty sure that this is not a period appropriate dress for the American War of Independence/Revolutionary War period. It looks more like a generic "historical" dress, with no clear time period in mind. Why there's an ocean and rolling cliffs in the background is also puzzling to me, as the whole book takes place in a British-occupied New York, there's no picturesque countryside in the book at all. They have at least found a cover model who's blond, like the heroine, and her putting her finger to her lips, indicating a secret is really rather cute.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.