Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure by Sophie Barnes

  • Lady Alexandra's Excellent AdventureTitle: Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure
  • Author: Sophie Barnes
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical (er, Mistorical)
  • Publisher: Avon Impulse, May 2012
  • Source: Borrowed from public library ($3.99 at Amazon)
  • Trope(s): Regency, Virgins, Beta Heroes, Spies, In Disguise, TSTL, Mistorical
  • Quick blurb: TSTL hoyden teams up with worst spy ever to rescue brother who may be a traitor.
  • Quick review: Spectacularly unsuccessful mashup of Julia Quinn and Joanna Bourne.
  • Grade: D-

Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure popped up on the “Recently Added E-Books” list at my local public library. I figured, “Hey, it has a cheesy title, but you never know.”

Oh, I should have known.

It didn’t take long to get to the second of many What. The. Fucks. in this book (I’m counting the title as the first). By the middle of chapter two, I was double-checking the front matter to see if my library had been suckered into offering vanity press titles.

Oh, Avon Impulse, if this is what you’re publishing as “fresh, exciting content,” I don’t think I’m the kind of “evolved” and “savvy” reader you had in mind. Unless, of course, “Insulting Mistorical” is one of your new subgenres.

But before we get into the CAPS LOCK OF INDIGNATION (to paraphrase The Book Smugglers – this wasn’t quite rage-inducing, but I’m definitely indignant), let’s go on an Excellent Adventure with Lady Alexandra & Friends.

The opening line….

London – May 15, 1815

Sir Percy Foxstone took a slow sip of his single malt whiskey, savoring the rich flavor as it warmed his chest before he sank down into one of the deep leather armchairs in his office at Whitehall.

The setup…..

Sir Percy, who holds a high-ranking but unnamed position with The Foreign Office, is chatting with Bryce Summersby, Earl of Moorland, about Bryce’s son William allegedly handing over valuable information to the French.

Yes, the earl’s name is Bryce. We know this because no one ever calls him by his title.

Bryce doesn’t believe that his son could be a traitor, because William has been Personally Thanked by The Prince Regent for a previous mission.

“I’m just not buying it,” he muttered, piercing his friend with a hard stare, his mouth set in a grim line.

I’m not buying it either, and we’re only on the first page. Page two doesn’t do much to reassure me:

Percy paused for a moment. The only reason he’d sent for Bryce in the first place was because he considered him a close friend. He’d already shared the details regarding William’s mission with him and was beginning to wonder how much more he ought to divulge.

A high-ranking Foreign Office official (spymaster? janitor? who the hell knows) blabs about an ongoing treason investigation WITH THE ACCUSED TRAITOR’S FATHER. Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest? Oh, that’s right – they’re friends, so it’s OK.

Luckily, Earl Bryce has nothing to fear, because Sir Percy is sending in his best secret agent to save the day.

“Would you like to meet him?”

Because it’s always a good idea to introduce your spy to the suspect’s father. That’s some fine spy work there, Percy.

A moment later, Michael strode into the room with a confidence that made it clear this was no fledgling.

Before them stood a tall figure of a man, well over six feet, with broad shoulders, a powerful chest, and strong arms. In short, he looked like he could slay a dragon with one hand while protecting a damsel in distress with the other. His hair was dark and ruffled, his eyes sparkling with boyish anticipation.

Oy. It’s like we just won the WTF Jackpot!

Our fully-fledged spy is Michael Ashford, Earl of Trenton, the only son of the Duke of Willowbrook. Don’t bother remembering the name of Michael’s earldom, because no one ever calls him by his title. Even though they just met, they’re all close, personal friends, remember? Who needs formality and protocol when treason is in the air?

The POV of this chapter bounces around between Sir Percy and Earl Bryce, so it’s hard to tell which one is observant enough to notice Michael’s manly physique and dark, ruffled hair. But it’s good to know that our hero sparkles with the boyish anticipation that’s so prized among the espionage community.

After some chit-chat about chess, Sir Percy gets down to the uncomfortable, nasty business of deciding the fate of his close personal friend’s child. Treason is unpardonable, you know.

Bryce moved to the side table to refill his glass. “How long have you and my son known each other?” he asked Michael.

“Well, er…actually, I…”

Wow, that’s a great response to intense interrogation. He’s the perfect choice to go undercover in enemy territory.

“You know we don’t allow our agents to meet unless they are working on the same assignment. It helps protect their identities when they are in the field.”

“Well, I certainly don’t mean to point out the obvious,” Bryce remarked, his voice laced with annoyance. “But how the devil is he supposed to find him when he doesn’t even know what he looks like?”

Hmmm, maybe because he’s a trained agent of espionage? You know, SPYING? [*headdesk*]

But Sir Percy doesn’t want to risk any further annoyance from the Father of the Traitor, so he nods indulgently at Bryce’s suggested strategy:

“I want Ryan and Alex to accompany him… They will be able to identify their brother.”

Just to be clear on this crucial plot point: The high-ranking Foreign Office spymaster agrees to send the traitor’s younger siblings to France with the spy to make sure the correct treason-monger is arrested.

Still with me?

Michael the Spy isn’t quite sure about this development:

“It will be a perilous journey,” he stated. “They will have to hold their own. I have no desire to babysit anyone.”

Yes, he says “babysit.” Oh, wait – he states it, not says it. Sorry. Luckily, Michael has nothing to fear because Alex/Alexandra is a master swordsman, a crack shot and a fearless rider. Ryan, not so much; he’s just tagging along to act as chaperone.

“Very well then,” Michael acquiesced. “We leave at down. Will they be ready by then?”

Bryce nodded. “I have already told them to prepare themselves in the event that they would be joining you.”

Huh? What…? When…? Never mind.

However, our “WHY???” questions are answered at the end of chapter one:

This was exactly the sort of thing that Alexandra had been dreaming about for years, and now he was finally ready to indulge her.

Ohhhhh, now I get it. The earl’s spoiled rotten daughter will be our heroine. Oh, joy. I’m sure she’ll be delightful.

Before we move on, let’s rewind for a moment. Back up on page one, Earl Bryce says:

“Do you see now why I never wanted Alex to get involved?”

That confused me, because the following exposition is all about William, and we learn that Alex/Alexandra is not yet involved in anything. In fact, the whole point of the first chapter is HOW BRYCE WANTS ALEX TO BE INVOLVED.

Our WTFery score is in the double digits, and we haven’t even met our heroine yet.

The plot….

Alex/Alexandra and Ryan meet up with Michael at the tavern. We learn that Alex/Alexandra has good night-vision because she’s able to discern the flexing ropes of muscle on Michael’s velvety black stallion as he emerges from the darkness.

Alex/Alexandra, with no experience of men apart from her brothers, is naturally unnerved by the Specter of Manliness that Michael presents, what with his messy tresses and perfectly sculpted jawline and all. But I shouldn’t make fun, because our heroine’s treacherous body is sending some strange signals to her lady parts. Her nerves are on edge, you guys!

Granted, these were new, unexpected emotions – the sort she’d always dreaded – but they were emotions all the same. One way or another, she would have to find a way to overcome them.

Luckily, she’s heavily disguised with a hooded cloak and a scarf to keep her gender and her emotional emotions hidden. Um, a scar, yeah. No, wait, disfigured from birth. Yeah, that’s it. Everyone will believe that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Agent_XThe three companions (yes, companions) reach Brighton by lunchtime (yes, lunchtime), where Alex is naturally grossed out by the smell of fish and street urchins. Michael sends the siblings into the nearest pub filled with sailors and dockworkers, where Alex/Alexandra immediately whips out her weapon to defend her claim to an empty table. That bully touched her shoulder, dammit! Ryan just stands around grinning lopsidedly, as he does for most of the book.

So now they’re on the ship crossing The Chanel (no, not The Channel, The CHANEL – the French spelling, duh). Secret Agent Michael takes the opportunity to apologize for his earlier faux pas in expecting his Disguised Companion in Spydom to engage in gentlemanly conversation:

His voice was soft and cautious, as if he half expected her to turn around and lash out at him… “It’s just, well…we’ll be spending quite a bit of time together you and I, so I was rather hoping we might be able to get along.”

The fate of England is in this man’s hands, ladies. Are you swooning yet?

After some friendly chit-chat about her traitorous brother, Alex/Alexandra calls our hero a whoremonger.

“Stop right there,” he gruffed, effectively cutting her off. “I will not allow you to speak of my mistresses in such a degrading fashion.” Michael scowled.

I just love a scowly but loyal womanizer, don’t you? But don’t worry, he’s not really offended – two paragraphs later, his eyes are twinkling as he fondly recalls ample bosoms and soft thighs.

To ease the tension of this “strenuous rendezvous,” Alex/Alexandra accepts Michael’s challenge of a knife-throwing contest. She’s not happy when her brother causes her to lose.

“Come on, Alex,” Ryan said as he sauntered toward her. “Try not to be such an addle plot.”

I’m guessing “addle plot” is an imaginary synonym for “addle-pate.” But then again, maybe not, because “foolish and dull-witted” doesn’t really fit the scene. It suits the character, but not the context of the dialogue.

ANYWAY, Alex/Alexandra stomps off to her cabin, while the boys get into their cups during a game of cards. A few hours later, our sloppy drunk super-spy hero decides that our well-disguised heroine sounds rather like a woman.

Oh dear.

She hadn’t considered that her personality might interfere with her plan of deception.

Oh, so there IS a plan. Good to know. For a minute there, I thought “spoiled, reckless hoyden in a bad disguise” was just a whim. If I was editing this book, I would have placed the “addle plot” reference here.

Moving along on our Adventure of Excellence, we land in France, where our Adventurous Heroine heads into a murky tavern filled with sailors and dockworkers to acquire some horses:

Alexandra paused in the doorway and pushed back her hood. She then pulled down her scarf. She’d decided that her feminine wiles might serve her better in this instance than the disguise she wore for Michael’s benefit alone.

We’ve now officially achieved Too Stupid To Live status, and we’re only at the beginning of chapter four.

But wait – there’s more! Our Excellent Adventurer is subjected to – brace yourselves – OGLING. [*gasp*] I know, right???

She’d always considered herself to be on equal footing with her brothers and had never considered that other men might treat her differently…. Somehow, it had never occurred to her that she might have to fight to protect her innocence.

Excuse me a moment while I take a short break to prevent injury to my forehead.

Swirling around in one fluid motion, she pinned the angry innkeeper with her sword, her glare speaking volumes about her feelings toward him.

Oooooh, a glare! You go, girl! And there’s more where that came from:

Alexandra merely cocked an eyebrow. She would not allow this sorry apology of a man to see just how offended she was.

Is this a kick-ass heroine or what? Damn. And there’s even more where that came from, because in the very next chapter, our Spunky Spitfire single-handedly takes on a mob of drunken, brawling Frenchmen.

[NOTE: Don’t bother asking why she was wandering the dark streets of Rouen by herself, because the answer to that and all related questions is “Because she’s TSTL, that’s why.”]

Oops, sorry – she’s not mobbed by drunken Frogs. She’s nearly trampled by a hoard of buffoons. No, not a HORDE, a HOARD. But she doesn’t stand for that kind of nonsense:

Deciding that she wasn’t going to be stampeded for one more second, she sprang to her feet, coolheaded, and seemingly annoyed. She then drew a dagger from her left boot in one swift motion while unsheathing her sword at the same time.

Yes, stampeded. Also, please note she’s only seemingly annoyed. Also, please note this is the THIRD TIME in less than 48 hours in which our heroine brandishes her Mighty Blades of Girl Power.

But wait – there’s more!

“Sword!” someone bellowed.

I shit you not. I think the pie-in-the-face gag comes next.

“Just let me go. This is not my fight, so I’d rather not suffer any further injury because of it.”

[Oh, lookit, it’s a GIRL, no WAY, shut UP, get OUT]

She rolled her eyes. This really wasn’t going the way she’d planned it at all.

And then our Hapless Heroine gets OGLED. Again! I know, right??? But never fear, they’re all captive in the palm of her hand, because Alex/Alexandra challenges a member of the Hoard of Buffoonery to a duel. Don’t worry – she’s careful to replace her scarf in case someone she knows walks by.

http://www.coverbrowser.com/covers/secret-agent-xWith some very convenient timing, our hero Michael just happens to stroll by. As he stops to admire the impromptu spectacle of clashing sabers, he recognizes one of the combatants as his traveling companion. But even after staring into his/her bright blue eyes and imagining his/her triumphant smile and admiring his/her dancing form, he STILL hasn’t figured out that she’s female. That scarf disguise is PURE MAGIC, you guys.

In fact, the Big Reveal doesn’t occur until the travelers are comfortably situated in their Parisian Spy Mansion of Secrecy. Michael is stunned – STUNNED, I tell you – when Alex/Alexandra enters the parlor sans hood and scarf:

“Please tell me this is a nightmare from which I will soon awaken,” he finally managed to say.

Yeah, that was my reaction too. And it doesn’t get any better.

“But he has no right to insist that I will get us all killed, just because he has suddenly discovered that I am a woman. I dare say he’s a bigot.”

No, you’re an idiot. There’s a difference.

“What do you mean?” she asked cautiously. “If I can fight as well as either of you, perhaps even better, then why should I be in more danger than you or Ryan on this assignment?”

Um… What about…? Did she already forget…? Two chapters ago, she.… Never mind.

The implication of what Michael was saying began to dawn on her as she thought back on the encounters she’d had over the past two days with men who’d discovered she was female.

Oh, NOW she remembers.

She was refreshing. There it was. He’d never met anyone like her, and it intrigued him.

Let’s try that one again:

She was refreshing Too Stupid To Live. There it was. He’d never met anyone like her, and it she intrigued annoyed him.

There. That’s better.

All righty, let’s get the rest of this mess over with. Here’s a quick rundown of Chapters 7-21:

Suspected traitor is personal physician to Napoleon. Hero uses fake names to breach security at Tuilieries Palace. She’s already there. Loud “R U A Traitor? Nuh-uh! Yeah huh!” argument in the middle of Napoleon’s palace. Mental lusting throughout treason argument. He contemplates marriage. Sexy times that night interrupted by Other Brother. She refuses to marry. He challenges her to a duel because she besmirched his honor. They duel (first blood, not to the death). She loses. Somewhere in here she steps on broken glass for the sole purpose of having him carry upstairs to induce more sexy times and having her stay in bed for a week so he can bring her flowers. We-Knew-He-Really-Wasn’t -A-Traitor Brother distributes invitations to Napoleon’s ball celebrating his return from Elba and imminent invasion of whatever Belgium was called at the time. She faints for no apparent reason. She stays unconscious for hours for no apparent reason. She revives just in time for the ball. Her gown is very low-cut. She uses feminine wiles to lure Napoleon’s Grand Marshal into divulging where Other British Agent is imprisoned. Grand Marshal feels her up, she pukes on him. Imprisoned agent is rescued. But wait! Shots ring out! Rescued agent was the Real Traitor so they leave him for dead! Helter-skelter carriage ride! She jumps from fleeing carriage into the River Seine while wearing low-cut ballgown! They have to warn Wellington! More sexy times. They still have to warn Wellington! Attacked by French soldiers on the road to Brussels! The main road to Brussels, not the side roads that real spies would use!

I need to interrupt this recap to share more Jaw-Dropping Feats of Girl Power performed by our Intrepid Adventuress:

Grabbing onto the front of the saddle, she swung herself around, her knees braced hard against her horse’s flanks for support…. Drawing her pistol, she took steady aim and fired, her shot felling a soldier who’d closed in on Ryan. But it was a single shot pistol and she would have to reload. Not only did that take time but it was also a difficult task to accomplish while riding backward.

She had an idea.

We have to be told she has an idea. Because we’re obviously not smart enough to figure it out ourselves. Her brilliant idea is to grab her brothers’ pistols and shoot two more French soldiers.

But wait – there’s more!

Swinging back around, she ground her heels against her horse’s sides and hauled with all her might on the reins, bringing her about to face their attackers head on. At little more than a moment’s notice, Alexandra reached for her sword and dagger, holding one in each hand and thrusting them out at the oncoming men as momentum carried them forward. She saw the fear in their eyes the second before her blades touched them. They knew what came next and then it happened—blood splattered across her as each man was sliced open, their screams of despair dying in a horrific gurgle of bubbling liquid.

Yeah, I know. I felt the same way.

That’s pretty much the end of the adventure. They find Wellington’s army and are immediately admitted to his tent to deliver their top-secret uncoded message, which everyone immediately believes without question. Wellington points his troops toward Quatre Bras, and the rest is history. The Glory of England shall reign supreme, thanks to the Heroic Bravery of our Gang of Spies.

But what about our Happy Couple’s Happily Ever After, you ask? Never fear – we still have five more chapters and an epilogue left!

She hides out at her father’s house. He sends her flowers. She gets pissed about the flowers. She has a Heart-To-Heart Talk with her father about Love & Life. She changes her mind about marrying him. She immediately leaves on horseback in the middle of the night for her aunt’s home in London. Makeover time. More cleavage. They meet again at ball hosted by his parents. She sees him with a woman. She gets pissed off and calls the woman a Cyprian. Oops, it’s his sister!  Haha! Smooching on the balcony (the hero and heroine, not the sister). She proposes to him. He accepts. More smooching. Caught with dress down by future mother-in-law! Haha! They get married and live Happily Ever Epilogue with lots of babies.

The End. Thank GOD.

The lust….

More blood raced toward his groin, hardening him even further.

Yawn.

…their lips bruising while their tongues tangled in the confines of the moist heat.

Ew.

Insecurity abandoned her, and she eagerly spread her legs, opening herself wide to his perusing stare.

Yawn.

She cried out his name and felt him tighten, a wave crashing over him as he groaned between clenched teeth before finally collapsing on top of her in a heap of heavenly bliss.

Yawn. [*stretch*] Yawn.

The romance….

For moments on end, they soared together among the stars, completely sated and joined, in the sparkling sensations their love had wrought.

Huh? What? I’m sorry – were you saying something?

Our heroine….

TSTL.

Oh, fine then, I’ll follow my self-imposed format. Lady Alexandra Summersby, daughter of the Earl of Something-Or-Other, is a hoyden. We know this because the word “hoyden” appears in the book approximately 743 times. You know, because we wouldn’t have figured it out otherwise.

In addition to being a “better horseman, a better swordsman, and a better shot” than her brothers, Alexandra is also TSTL. Oh, did I say that already? My bad.

Our hero…..

I love beta heroes. Alpha heroes generally piss me off, so at first I was glad to learn that our hero, despite being an earl and a spy, is a beta. But there’s a difference between being a beta and being a doormat.

http://www.nostalgiamerchant.biz/Secret_Agent_X9.htmThe best way to describe Michael Ashford, Earl of Trenton, aka Worst Spy EVER, is wishy-washy. How wishy-washy is he? He has nine – count ‘em, NINE (9) – mistresses.

…“one for each day of the week, with a couple to spare for variety’s sake.”

You might that think would make him an Alpha Male Rake, but you’d be wrong. He just can’t make up his mind.

He’s wishy-washy because he apologizes. To the TSTL heroine. ALL THE TIME. Which just perpetuates her idiocy.

  • ….”I apologize,” Michael muttered after a few moments.
  • …”Forgive me. I did not mean to embarrass you,” Michael apologized.
  • …“I’m sorry about earlier,” he said with an element of sincerity to his voice that surprised her.
  • …“I’m sorry to hear it,” he told her.
  • …“Would it by any chance help if I apologized?”
  • …”I’m sorry I laughed, truly I am…”
  • …”I must apologize to you, though you ought to know her innocence remains intact.”
  • …”My apologies…I…Alex, let me help you.”
  • …”I’m sorry, my lady, but what reason do I have to trust him ….”
  • …“I’m so sorry, Alex,” he told her in an earnest voice.
  • …”I’m sorry, I didn’t knock,” he said…
  • …“I’m sorry for the way I insulted you the other day….”
  • …”Please accept my humblest apologies for my gross miscalculation.”
  • …“I’m so sorry. I was called upon to perform one last task….”

He also apologizes to every other character in the book. Often.

However, despite being overly apologetic and wishy-washy, Michael is pretty much an all-around happy kind of guy. We know this because he grins. A lot.

  1. “Not to worry,” Michael grinned.
  2. Michael grinned.
  3. Michael grinned.
  4. Michael grinned.
  5. A helpless grin was spreading to Michael’s cheeks.
  6. He grinned at that.
  7. Michael grinned before taking another sip of his whiskey.
  8. He grinned and shook his head in open amusement.
  9. Michael grinned.
  10. Michael stifled a grin as he followed a footman up a long flight of stairs.
  11. …but he simply couldn’t help but grin at her very apparent discomfiture.
  12. …his eyes wandering over her reflection while an impish grin played upon his lips.
  13. Michael grinned at her…
  14. He went down without pause, his grin twisting into something quite painful to look at.
  15. Hiding a lopsided grin, he then quickly exited his bedroom.
  16. “I wouldn’t have the courage,” he grinned.
  17. “…what a hoyden you really are,” Michael grinned.
  18. Michael grinned and shook his head.
  19. “Well, don’t just stand there grinning like a bloody idiot!” she fumed.
  20. He grinned ever so slightly….
  21. Michael grinned, allowing for some of the tension to ease.
  22. There was a wolfish grin upon his lips.
  23. Michael grinned openly and pressed a kiss against her cheek.
  24. He grinned as he recognized in himself her greatest fault – cockiness.
  25. “I’m not so sure about that,” he grinned.
  26. Michael grinned.
  27. Michael grinned after a while as he eased himself away from her.
  28. Michael grinned.
  29. “I just have to find my sisters,” he grinned….
  30. Michael grinned.

That list doesn’t include his smirks (5+) or smiles (impish, sudden, cheeky (2), mocking, disturbing, partial, wide, crooked (5), smug, lopsided, predatory, affectionate, tentative, wayward, stiff, dazzling, etc., etc.).

That’s pretty much all there is to say about Michael. He’s mostly just a prop who grins indulgently at the TSTL heroine and then apologizes when she does stupid shit.

Letting fly my Arrows of Mockery…

I’ll bet you thought I was already done with that part, huh? Think again, my friends.

The first time I posted a comment on Dear Author was in an epic discussion of historical authenticity in romance. I wrote a long, ranting Manifesto on Neo-Constructivist Romantical Historicism.

[NOTE: I made up that pretentious title to make it sound more scholarly. I have no clue if “neo-constructivist" actually means something or not. I think "historicism" might be a real word.]

I’m willing to overlook (*ahem* Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Julie Anne Long….) minor anachronisms and inaccuracies. Give me good stories and believable characters and steamy smooching, and I’ll keep buying. But if glaring errors make me stop for a Wikipedia break, I will read with my Highlighting Finger of Doom at the ready, and I will hold a grudge.

DO NOT KICK ME OUT OF MY READING TRANCE.

By that standard – and by most other standards, I’m willing to bet – Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure utterly fails as a historical romance.

Yes, I know this is supposed to be a “romp,” but that doesn’t give an author or publisher an excuse to INSULT MY INTELLIGENCE. And I DON’T CARE if saying that offends anyone who enjoyed this book.

I’m RIGHTEOUSLY INDIGNANT and I’m going to USE MY CAPS LOCK and YOU CAN’T STOP ME.

Still with me? Too bad. I’m ranting anyway.

IT’S NOT A REGENCY. It’s a 1930s screwball comedy. But not one of the good ones with Claudette Colbert or Carole Lombard. It’s more like a “Studio Head Forces Director To Cast His Bimbo Mistress And Use A Script Written By His Nephew” kind of farce. Reckless hoyden. Befuddled hero. Bumbling spies. Shoot-outs and carriage chases. Enemies shaking fists vowing revenge. Pointless duels and circus tricks on horseback.  Feminine wiles and strategic puking. Last-minute makeover. Baby-filled epilogue.

PLEASE.

IT’S NOT BRITISH. Not even close. These characters are Americans. They’re casual, waving off use of titles and honorifics as “too formal.” Their conversations and internal monologues are littered with modern American slang and idioms (see below). They order beer by brand name. They eat LUNCH, for god’s sake.

AS IF.

IT’S NOT ESPIONAGE. The spying. Oh, LORDY, the spying. There is absolutely NOTHING in this book that remotely resembles a believable espionage plot. It’s not even believable as a slapstick PARODY of an espionage plot.

“All the gentry in Paris will be invited, including foreign ministers and ambassadors. Not ours of course, for obvious reasons.”

“Do we even have one here at the moment? Alexandra asked.

“No, Lord Whitworth was the last, but that was ten years ago.”

Um… She’s a spy in Napoleonic France, and she has to ask…? Does the Foreign Office really recruit…?

No. Just NO.

IT’S NOT ROMANTIC. There’s no relationship building. There’s no sexual tension. It’s the same old predictable “banter = flirting” and “arguing leads to sex” tropes so beloved by Romance-O-Matic editors and publishers.

GAH.

Inaccuracies and anachronisms abound…

It’s painfully easy to spot the half-hearted attempts to include 1815 period detail. “Sword” and “saber” are used interchangeably. Rifle = musket = harquebus. Michael and Ryan play two-handed whist. Rural taverns and village pubs are lit by exterior gaslights.

I DON’T THINK SO.

The examples of anachronistic language are even worse. The few mentioned earlier – “I’m just not buying it” and “babysit” and “stampeded” – were just teasers.

…“No wonder she was so peeved,” he murmured.

…He probably took in stray puppies and donated money to the homeless.

…Never in her life had she felt so self-conscious

…They had lunch at a small restaurant…

…she sashayed back inside her bedroom.

…You must have selective hearing then,” she quipped.

…“Now you’re talking!”

…“It certainly does hit the spot,” Alexandra agreed.

…”whatever it is she claims to be would never fly back home.”

…Bertrand stiffened, mesmerized by her forwardness.

…a mesmerizing motion that Michael could not tear his eyes away from.

…“I know my son and what his needs might be in a life companion.”

…This had to be her worst nightmare come to life – worse even than Ryan catching her with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar.

…Virginia responded with a small chuckle that eventually morphed into a warm smile.

Yes, Virginia, MORPHED. In a REGENCY.

[*HEADDESK*]

But wait – there’s more!

Stay with me here, almost done.

In amongst all that WTFery, we get info-dumping on political and military maneuvers, extensive internal monologuing that summarizes what we’ve already been told, and characters changing personalities willy-nilly to suit the plot contrivances.

We also get overuse of pet words and phrases:

  • Twinkled or twinkling = 6
  • Sparkled or sparking = 7
  • Mischief = 7
  • Quickened or quickening = 8
  • Flutter = 9
  • Dazzling = 9
  • Emotions or emotional = 13
  • Smirk or smirked = 12
  • Eyebrow or eyebrows = 16
  • Sorry = 37
  • Grin or grinned = 70. SEVENTY.
  • Smile or smiled = 114. ONE HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN.

And we get clichés. LOTS of clichés.

  • …Nobody moved a muscle.
  • …quick as a fox
  • …white as a sheet
  • …a thorn in her side
  • …at a snail’s pace
  • …a force to be reckoned with
  • …playing with fire
  • …filled him to the brim
  • …warmed her heart
  • …it dawned on him
  • …glimmer of hope
  • …like a fish out of water
  • …spread like wildfire
  • …struck a chord
  • …burst into flames
  • …gunfire rang out
  • …another shot rang out
  • …The shot rang out

But wait – there’s more!

This is the last bit. I promise.

More proofreading fail. From a Big Six publisher. You know, because THE CHANEL and ADDLE PLOT and HOARD weren’t bad enough.

…His friend’s on the other hand seemed quite convinced that their victory was already in hand.

…She held her ground; she was so angry her blood practically boiling in her veins.

… as if she was a delectable desert that he was getting ready to sink his teeth into.

…to hide the shock or disappointment that she felt at her brother’s words.

…he could almost see the sparks of energy flowing between them. [Um, sparks don’t “flow.”]

…A cold sliver ran down his spine. [Ouch]

Your turn….

Here’s a two-fer – you can choose whether to tag it as Anachronism Fail or Proofreading Fail:

…He was just so drop-dead gorgeous that it almost sent her head spinning like a fair ground carrousel.

Now let me tell you what I REALLY think….

Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure is a spectacularly unsuccessful mashup of Julia Quinn and Joanna Bourne.

http://www.blackmask.com/?cat=129It’s not a wallpaper historical. It’s shelf liner. Or maybe one of those clear vinyl slipcovers that my Grandma used on her living room furniture.

Why didn’t I give it an F? Because most of the sentences were grammatically correct, the punctuation was acceptable and I learned a lot of fun stuff while Googling all the WTFery that kicked me out of my reading trance.

The end of this e-book included an excerpt from the author’s debut novel, cheekily titled How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back, in which a character gushes about seeing Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty on stage in London. In 1811.

Tchaikovsky wasn’t born until 1840. His Sleeping Beauty ballet was first performed in 1890.

There’s also a preview of the author’s next book, cheekily titled There’s Something About Lady Mary, in which the heroine learns her recently deceased father was a Secret Marquess with a Secret Fortune:

“You see, here’s the thing of it—the title went into obscurity for a number of years through lack of usage. For whatever reason he might have had, Mary’s father was bent on making his own way in life, as far away from the social constraints of the upper classes as humanly possible. All the same, he did manage to ensure that his daughter would one day inherit the title from him.”

Huh? How is that…? Wouldn’t….? Never mind.

I don’t think I’ll be reading any more from this author.

OK, I lied – I saved these two for the end…

Was he really sitting there discussing her innocence with her brother? Inconceivable!

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

…she could almost hear the sands of time rushing through a giant hourglass…

These are the Days of Our Lives.

I’m done cracking myself up now. You’re welcome.

6 thoughts on “Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure by Sophie Barnes

  1. Ah, when you are on a roll, you are the queen of literary insults! I love when you spew all caps! Please continue to do what you do so well! It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!

  2. I think you can have mesmerised (too lazy to look it up, but wasn’t Mesmer doing his thing in the late 18th century?)
    But, yeah. I’ve just about stopped reading historicals, except from authors I already know, and even then–
    anyway. I read a “Regency” recently where the hero went tooling around the countryside in a landau (that thing the Queen uses at Ascot) and they spent a page later in the book discussing Faberge eggs. There was more.
    I can’t do the Scottish books. Malt whisk(e)y in the Regency as if it’s on every sideboard? Drives me nuts, that one. Especially when there’s a perfectly acceptable substitute in brandy.

  3. Alma M. says:

    I think it’s fair to say I enjoy your rage-filled reviews more than I do most books (and only slightly less than all the One-Quote Reviews that basically amount to a *swoon* and occasionally progress to a *swoon* ~thud~ :D)!

    In fact, I come back to this review whenever I need cheering up, or just a reminder that there’s always something worse in the world than my troubles :)

    My mistake this time was reading it at work. Cue the desperate stuffing-hand-against-mouth-trying-not-to-cry-with-laughter-and-alert-colleagues-of-NSFW-activity…..

    I particularly enjoyed “the boyish anticipation that’s so prized among the espionage community”, “scowly but loyal womanizer”, “Oooooh, a glare!” and “The main road to Brussels, not the side roads that real spies would use!”.

    Time to temporarily abandon my author-backlist-catchup and embark on an Instalove-review-backlist-catchup :D

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