A Matter of Convenience

A Matter of Pride

 
A Matter of Honor
by Gabriella Anderson
(Zebra Ballad, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-821-76789-5
**
A Matter of Honor, the last in the Destiny Coin trilogy, fails to live up to the standard set by the second installment, A Matter of Pride. The clichéd characters, contrived plot, and forced prose make for an uncomfortable read.

Lady Lorane St. John is a gawky young woman whose consuming interest is plants. She’s a talented botanical artist, but that counts for nothing with her pushy, society-conscious mother. Lorane wants nothing more than to be left alone to draw; her mother insists she find a suitable husband.

Captain Nicholas Grant is in London visiting his sister, Eden, whom we met in the second book. He’s recently engaged to the beautiful Isabelle, who awaits him in Boston, and he has a niggling guilt over their passionate interlude the night before he sailed. His first glimpse of Lorane is inauspicious, as she’s yelling at a duke for dumping his drink into a potted plant, which may well kill the poor plant. (At this point, a warning bell went off with a giant clang! in this reader’s mind.) Lorane’s visit to his ship with her two small nephews and Eden doesn’t improve his general impression of her. But it gives Lorane an idea.

She’ll stow away on his ship bound for America.

The use of the tired “stowaway” plot device isn’t helped a bit by Lorane, who manages to come across as one of the silliest heroines in recent memory. She brings the sum total of two dresses, a sack of sausages, and two gold sovereigns with her on her big adventure. Her plan? To get to America, write and illustrate a book on native plants, have it published, and then pay Nicholas back for her passage. All on two gold sovereigns. Of course she’s discovered, of course Nicholas is beyond irritated, of course she doesn’t listen to a word he says and insists she can take care of herself, of course she gets herself into trouble on board…

Once they get to Boston, the plot is forced along by actions that make no sense. Nicholas is concerned that Lorane’s reputation will be in shreds and his fiancée will be appalled, but it never occurs to him to simply take her to his parents’ home to stay, even though they live in Boston and have already met Lorane. Instead, she stays alone in Nicholas’s house, whereupon the fiancée enters the picture and instantly assumes the cardboard persona of every scheming shrew ever written. And the writing doesn’t help. Isabelle smirks, pouts, whines, screeches, flounces. Nicholas smirks, too. In fact, there’s a lot of smirking going on, by almost every character in the story.

Lorane comes across as more stupid than naïve. When she finds a stationer’s shop and the clerks are reluctant to give her a box of expensive art supplies on credit, dressed as she is in a raggedy dress and with no credentials, she insults them:

“Since we are in America, you may call me Miss St. John. You colonials find it so difficult to use titles correctly”….as Lorane left the shop, she wondered if she should have told the men she would be paying them back as soon as her book was published, but then decided she had done the correct thing by not mentioning it. Such information would have only confused the poor souls.

I think this was meant to show Lorane standing up for herself, but instead she appeared to be a patronizing twit. And since there is absolutely no book on the horizon, her self-delusion quickly becomes laughable.

With Lorane running around Boston acting like she hasn’t a brain in her head, Isabelle doing every clichéd thing a spurned fiancée does (absolutely no surprises here) and Nicholas missing the obvious solution to his troubles, the eventual romance between Nicholas and Lorane doesn’t feel the least bit credible. One minute he’s irritated as hell with her; the next, she’s a vision that takes his breath away. Right. Well, he sure wasn’t going to be attracted to her for her smarts.

Nicholas is the only person in this story with whom I felt the least sympathy. (Correction: the clerks in the stationery store got my support, too.) At least he appears to have some common sense, enough to realize that Lorane is clueless and his fiancée is a scheming bitch, though he can’t see through her transparent lies. But a smidgen of sympathy for the hero can’t carry the book into Recommended territory.

Gabriella Anderson’s talents aren’t showcased well in A Matter of Honor, which feels like it was rushed into print to conclude the series. A heavy hand with an editing pen would have helped immensely. This is one trilogy that simply fizzled out.

--Cathy Sova


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