Every so often you get a book that has an interesting premise, interesting characters, a good repartee between the hero and heroine…. And then it falls apart on the execution so hard that you end up finishing the book out of spite.
It’s possible my spite and your spite don’t work the same way.
Look, it’s like this: Delilah is one of three sisters who all had boring first marriages with rich, titled husbands who politely died while all three sisters were still young and hot. Her older sister, Camille, is getting married to her first love with awkward back story that was explored in the previous book. Before the wedding, Delilah accompanies her sister and the fiancé to a trip to New York and meets one of the fiancé’s BFF’s, has a torrid one night stand, and then tells the BFF that she never wants to see him again ever.
So, naturally, the BFF, Samuel, shows up two weeks before the wedding. Sparks fly, neither of them can stop thinking about each other’s hair and other parts, dammit. But even though he is all about wanting her, she says she doesn’t want him because she’s got a plan and it’s a good plan- she’s going to marry someone with a higher rank than her poor dead husband (because one doesn’t marry DOWN, of course). An American does not mean marrying up.
But they bicker over what is now pretty typical American/British things- progress versus tradition! Coffee versus tea! (Oh, that reminds me, I got a new TARDIS teapot for Christmas and I need some tea. Hold on, I’ll be right back.) (I’m back) There’s really nothing here that’s new if you watch Downton Abbey.
So before we get to the things that completely blew this book off the rails for me, I want to talk about what I liked. It takes place in 1887, with the whole rapid change of society and Samuel is trying to bring automobiles to the aristocracy of England (with a pretty good business plan, actually- get the aristocracy interested in cars, which will get insecure rich Americans buying cars and BOOM EVERYONE WILL WANT CARS). Delilah and Sam have very different (if predictable) position on progress (but not really).
There is an actual reason for Delilah’s reluctance to get with Sam! It’s not really well executed, but it exists and it’s not a stupid reason.
I felt like there were a few too many people, and keeping them all straight was not easy. But I did like the skeleton of the book- Delilah has a Plan. A mistake made at a masquerade in New York City was not part of the Plan. She has her reasons for her Plan. And then best laid Plans and all…
But here’s where things fall apart: Y’all know I like historical accuracy, right? The reason Delilah is looking for a new, higher-ranked, rich husband is because her funds have been frozen. Why? Because, 3 years after the death of her viscount husband, a possible heir has appeared on the scene, thus freezing the estate, which presumably includes the entailed property, and leaving her with nothing.
I mean. Okay, look, it’s possible that an heir would pop up at this point, maybe. But I am pretty sure that the entailed property and money would go back to the crown if there really was no heir (Okay, I checked on Twitter, and that’s what everyone agreed).
So…. Delilah should have gotten a dower portion after her husband died and maybe there would be some non-entialed things that maybe should have gone to his heir that she’d get…. EITHER WAY, that is a badly researched complication.
Even worse is the way the entire issue (snort) of the heir resolved. It’s resolved by a friend of her dead husband going, “Oh, there’s no way he could have a mystery heir. He couldn’t have children.” AND THAT’S IT. Um, no? He was not married before- it was a huge thing that he’d not been married before her. But even if he’d had an illegitimate child, that child would not be a legitimate heir. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. And this whole thing took me so far out of the book, that I kept reading it to see if this blatant mistake is corrected, and it’s not. It’s just “Oh, his balls didn’t work” and PROBLEM SOLVED. His ability or inability to have children is completely irrelevant. If he'd had an illegitimate son, it wouldn't matter because of the illegitimate part. This random mystery heir isn't claiming the husband had been married to his mother, so this is sturm und drang for no reason. Ridiculous.
Everybody just says “this heir showed up!” and the nature of the relationship isn't discussed at ALL until the husband's buddy shows up and says “this heir is totally a fake because your husband couldn't have children.” And everyone goes “Well, thank god that's sorted out!” and moves on with piles of money.
This is a textbook example of how accuracy in primary plot points can make or break a book. This isn’t Potato Rage- whether a potato makes it into a Viking era stew doesn’t have an effect on the plot (or, rather, it shouldn’t… if your plot hinges on a potato…. We can discuss that when you get there). This is a major plot point! This is an easily researched major plot point! It just made me SO MAD.