A Groom of One’s Own

The Heir & the Spare

A Tale of Two Lovers
by Maya Rodale
Avon, $7.99, PG-13 ISBN 978-0-06-192299-2
A Tale of Two Lovers felt like something I’d read about six times before. The hero is an unrepentant womanizer. The heroine writes a column for a newspaper called The London Weekly. He uses the term “ditzy” to describe the women he meets. She sits on her publisher’s desk, swinging her legs, wearing low-cut dresses in the middle of the day (presumably so the hero can ogle her cleavage). This would be unremarkable, except this is supposed to be a Regency-set historical. As it was, it came across as kind of cartoonish.

Lady Juliana Somerset is a widow who was badly hurt by her late husband’s infidelities. When he died, he left most of his money to his mistresses and by-blows, and little to Juliana. So, she works as the gossip columnist “A Lady of Distinction,” using her position in society to uncover the latest scandals. One night, Juliana spies Lord Simon Roxbury, a notorious rake, embracing what appears to be another man. This is just too delicious not to share, and soon Roxbury is being shunned. His invitations dwindle, and this causes him serious problems (and in Regency England he could have been imprisoned for it, though this is never mentioned).

His exasperated father, you see, has given Simon, an ultimatum: marry within a month or lose his inheritance. Just how he’s supposed to meet, court, propose, post banns, and marry a woman of good breeding in four weeks is never explained. You’d think his father, who is an earl, would know better, but maybe then there would have been no plot.

Simon finds Juliana in her publisher’s office, explains the “man” in question was an actress wearing breeches, and demands a retraction. Juliana refuses, even when Simon points out the damage she’s done to his reputation. Juliana has never considered that the rumors she spreads might actually cause harm to the subjects of those rumors. Too bad for Simon, though – she won’t apologize, so there. This should give the reader an excellent insight into both her intelligence and her character (hint: neither are stellar).

Simon is now in a real predicament. No decent woman will receive him, so he proposes a marriage of convenience to Juliana and virtually blackmails her into agreeing. It will solve both of their financial problems. The stage is set for their romance.

It’s been a while since I read a story with two characters as unlikable as Juliana and Simon. She’s self-centered, uncaring of the damage she does to peoples’ lives, and annoyingly smug. Yet when Simon turns the tables on her, she can’t believe someone would harm her reputation. How dare he! What a twit. Plus her late husband was a snake so she’ll never love again, blah, blah. Call it Motivation of Convenience.

Simon is no better. He’s a standard-issue rake in that all he wants to do is drink, have a good time, and sleep with as many women as possible. Why get married to just one woman, he reasons, when he can have hundreds? Meet Simon, Regency Frat Boy. His attitude doesn’t change much until late in the story, and it’s difficult to sympathize with his predicament when he brought much of it on himself.

Because I didn’t care for either of these two, it was hard to get invested in their romance. Simon does eventually decide he’s a one-woman man, but Juliana won’t believe him, of course. There’s a side plot about another gossip columnist trying to one-up Juliana, but it didn’t do much for the story. Throw in too much modern-sounding dialogue, a forced separation, and not enough period detail to make things convincing, and it’s a disappointing read.

A Tale of Two Lovers is the second in a series featuring heroines who are journalists, and while I enjoyed the previous installment, this second story is one I was glad to set aside.

--Cathy Sova

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