Thursday 23 October 2014
#CBR6 Book 110: "It Takes Two to Tangle" by Theresa Romain
Rating: 3 stars
Henry Middlebrook was a promising young artist before he went off to war. Now, after the Napoleonic wars, he's completely lost the use of his right arm. He can no longer paint, and feels cast adrift, without purpose. His sister-in-law is determined for him to make a promising match, hoping that the love of a good woman will help him become someone closer to the cheerful, carefree man he was before the war. She introduces him to Lady Caroline Stratton, possibly the most sought after women of the season. A wealthy, charming and beautiful widow, Lady Stratton has a wealth of suitors and her drawing room is filled to the brim with elaborate floral arrangements every afternoon. A clever strategist, Henry realises he's going to need an ally to win Lady Caroline over and convinces her companion, Mrs Frances Whittier to assist him. She's usually ignored by her cousin's suitors and enjoys the novelty of being asked to help.
When Henry receives a letter written on Lady Caroline's stationary, he immediately assumes that he's made a stronger impression on Lady Stratton than he first imagined. Of course, he's mistaken, and the letter is from Frances. She's too embarrassed to tell him, when he comes to her asking for help to continue the correspondence with Lady Caroline. She reluctantly agrees and he precedes to woo a woman who's not even vaguely intending to get remarried with the assistance of the woman who actually likes him. The longer they work together, the closer they grow, and it becomes harder and harder for Frances to tell Henry the truth without completely destroying their closeness.
Several of the reviewers on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books are big fans of Theresa Romain's novels, so when I saw this in an e-book sale I decided to buy it. As with so many books, it then languished on my shelf for months until one of the words for September's Monthly Keyword challenge made me remember it again. There was a lot of stuff I liked about it, such as the characters and the somewhat unusual situation for the hero to be in. You very rarely see genuinely physically damaged romance heroes, or if they have some sort of injury, they are magically healed by the love of a good woman and some unlikely medical breakthrough before the book ends. In this, Henry isn't any less crippled at the end of the book, but having finally opened up a bit about some of his experiences during the war, he's closer to emotional healing than he was at the beginning. Which is perfectly realistic and fine. He's also better at writing with his left hand, but only because he's practised diligently.
The book is well written, but I kept waiting for it to do more than mildly divert me. It was just a thoroughly ok book, nothing more, nothing less. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. I liked the various relationships between the characters, like the affectionate way Henry's sister-in-law emotionally blackmails him or the way Caroline and Frances converse when no one else is around. I liked the way Henry and Frances helped each other get over their difficult pasts, but the convoluted letter plot just didn't do anything for me. Because I keep hearing such good things about her books, I will try other Romain romances, hoping that some of the others impress me more than this one.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.