It’s only an hour or two into Twelfth Night in my part of the world, so a Christmas book is still timely. Right? Right.
I sure as hell hope so, because I still have my Christmas tree up (true story).
- Title: Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight
- Authors: Grace Burrowes
- Series: Windhams, Book 6
- Genre(s): Historical
- Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca, October 2012
- Source: NetGalley ($6.39 ebook)
- Length: 384 pages
- Trope(s): Secrets & Scandals, War Wounds, Repressed Smart Girl, Manly Men to the Rescue, Plot Moppets, Drunken Duels, Title PØrn, Shark Jumping, Misuse of Historical Personages
- Quick blurb: Long-suppressed secrets threaten marriage of duke’s daughter and gentleman farmer.
- Quick review: Everything important happens off-page, leaving plenty of space for annoyances and WTFery.
- Grade: D
He wasn’t unaffected either. There was…tumescence.
I really need to remember to take a break from historicals after reading Miranda Neville and Courtney Milan, or while anticipating a catch-up on Sherry Thomas, because everything else just seems so…so…*sigh*
Burrowes’ debut The Heir was another one of my “gateway” romances, mostly because of a certain handjob scene early in the book. But she’s never been on my auto-buy list, for reasons I really couldn’t explain. Until now.
I admire her use of language — some of her sentences are marvelous. But in between, there’s weak characterization, a lot of repetitive and Romance-O-Matic plotwork and occasionally some very ill-advised WTFery. Or, to put it bluntly, her storytelling skills leave me cold.
The waste of a perfectly promising heroine
My biggest frustration with Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight is that the literally brilliant heroine is reduced to a complete bore who is given nothing to do in the story beyond react to the men around her.
“She’s studied practically every modern European language…. She can do math in her head you and I couldn’t follow on paper…. She summarized half a millennium of Roman military strategy…knows Caesar’s letters by heart in the original and in translation…. You compose little bagatelles for her when what she needs is to be working on a translation of The Divine Comedy.”
But are we shown any of that Smart Girl goodness? NO. We’re informed of it in a single info-dumping paragraph. Instead, Louisa’s entire character as a Renaissance Woman is merely a convenient excuse to make her the object of pity with an empty dance card and inject some naughty poetry into the proceedings.
Which is a confusing, yet convenient, segue into my second-biggest frustration….
Much like her sister who starred in the previous book, and her other sister in the book before that, and those two other unmarried sisters who don’t have books yet, and her sisters-in-law from the first three books, and probably her mother whose novella I haven’t read yet, Lady Louisa has…wait for it…A Scandalous Secret.
But, of course, none of this scandalous behavior happens within the timeline of the book — it’s a single Unfortunate Episode that happened years before. So, of course, our heroine is given nothing else to do but stand around and mope while her “mother hen” brothers terrorize booksellers across England to track down every copy of her (*gasp*) self-published translation of Catullus.
Luckily, she’s Saved From Ruin by our hero, who has a pseudo-scandal of his own. We’re subjected to painfully obvious foreshadowing of Sir…Joseph (sorry, had to look it up because I forgot it already) and his Mysterious Brood of Bastards. But, as you can probably guess without even reading the book, they’re not HIS bastards — they’re just convenient off-page, unseen plot moppets used as props to demonstrate our hero’s Noble Spirit.
And, of course, the pseudo-plot is resolved by a melodramatic “rescue” by the Brotherhood of Manly Men who show up just in time to throw snowballs at the pathetic excuse for a “villain.”
There is ZERO tension — dramatic, romantic or sexual — in this entire book.