Catherine's Promise

Lord Caldwell & the Cat

Miss Chambers Takes Charge

Anne’s Wish by Joy Reed
(Zebra Ballad, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6810-7
I am not one of those readers who objects on principle to a “big misunderstanding” plot. I know all too well that human beings all too often fail to communicate effectively and that it is very hard to talk openly about emotional issues. So I don’t think that my enjoyment of this book was diminished by the fact that I could see the “big misunderstanding” coming from miles away. But maybe this was part of the problem. Almost from the beginning of the relationship between the hero and the heroine, I could predict exactly what was going to happen. I guess I like at least a modicum of uncertainty about what’s going to happen in a story.

Actually, Reed started out on an interesting and unusual note. The heroine, Anne Barrington, is a lady-in-waiting to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III and mother of the Prince Regent. Now this might sound like a grand position to hold, but for our heroine it was anything but. When her parents died when she was seventeen, a relative got Anne the position at court. Seven years later, the young woman feels trapped. She is, in fact, a glorified maidservant, subject to the whims of her unpleasant superior and at the queen’s beck and call continually. The court is filled with back biting courtiers, and Anne is lonely and unhappy. Thus, when Timothy Liniville, one of the Queen’s Equerries, befriends her, Anne is smitten.

But Timothy is a selfish fellow who seeks out Anne for her supposed influence with the queen. When his hopes for advancement are dashed, he takes his anger out on Anne in the most brutal fashion. Even if no one has witnessed her degradation, Anne knows she is ruined.

Then, one day, after a court function, she spies a handsome man who gazes at her with interest. Later, they encounter each other and Anne feels comfortable enough to describe her unhappy life. James, Lord Westland, is much taken by the lovely, sapphire-eyed woman. And so, to the amazement of both, he proposes that they marry.

James has recently inherited a title and a fortune from his uncle. He has spent most of his adult life abroad, most recently in Brazil. He knows no one in society, but believes he has to marry to insure that his younger brother not inherited the title. Believing that any young woman will simply be marrying him for his title, he concludes that wedding this sweet woman whose plight moves him is much the better plan.

At first, Anne refuses, but as her situation at court becomes more uncomfortable, she changes her mind. So the two wed and go off to Honeywell House, the estate which James has inherited, complete with its famous wishing well. At first, the newlyweds are happy, but then comes a letter from Timothy and the big misunderstanding rears its ugly head.

Just as I suspected.

The major problem I had with Anne’s Wish was not really the plot but rather the characters. Both the hero and the heroine are nice people, but they’re not very interesting. Anne comes across as weak. Oh, I know her situation was not a happy one, but she seems incapable of standing up for herself to the slightest degree. I have never been fond of heroines who go into a decline.

James is nice, too. He’s just not very heroic or very interesting. Indeed, the most interesting character in the book is the eight inch long, bird eating spider that James brought back from Brazil and which Anne nurses back to health. The other characters - James’ brother and sister-in-law especially - are more caricatures than fully developed human beings. And I was never quite sure what role the magical wishing well played in the romance.

Anne’s Wish failed my put-down/pick-up test. I was all too anxious to put it down and all too loathe to pick it up. I advise you to think twice about this one.

--Jean Mason

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