(Zebra, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6662-7
There is much to be said for story lines that revolve around a gentleman who, once he has met the woman of his dreams, will do anything to make her his. But when that gentleman's love is met with nothing but coldness, bitterness, and stoic indifference clear up until the last two pages of the novel, it leaves much to be desired in the way of a romance.
Pull out the prozac...you'll need it to get through this depressing tale.
Beau St. James is a man of means with one serious problem: his seventeen-year-old daughter Katherine is constantly doing impetuous, foolhardy things that have succeeded in jeopardizing her reputation. When Katherine is caught posing nude for a London sculptor, Beau is determined to do anything to keep the gossip from being spread, including succumbing to Sir John Rapsville's blackmail scheme. According to Sir John, if Beau wishes to keep Katherine's name intact, then as his attorney, he demands that Beau get him the deed to "Solitude," a tiny country cottage that he has made numerous attempts to buy from its spinster owner to no avail. The reason Sir John wants it? To ensconce his mistress there for easy access.
Hannah Whitechurch is an artist responsible for the care of her two younger sisters. Finances have been tight as of late, with her watercolors not selling as they should. Nevertheless, Hannah refuses to sell her beloved home "Solitude" to the handsome Beau St. James, as it is the only thing in her life she can claim as her very own. Hannah is attracted to Beau from the onset, but because she's afraid of that attraction, she does all in her power to keep him at arm's length. Will Beau be able to break through the hardened
exterior of the woman he has fallen in love with and make her realize she loves him back?
Unfortunately, as previously stated, Hannah's coat of armor is not dissembled until the last two pages of the book. It's a sad state of affairs in a romance novel when, as the reader, you start wishing the hero would give up and look to another heroine for his heart's desire. Quite frankly, after about a hundred or so pages into the book, you are left wondering what it is that is so special about Hannah. Two hundred pages into the book, you're left wondering if Hannah has ever entertained a thought about anyone else's
happiness but her own.
The premise of this entire novel revolves around Hannah's love for "Solitude" and how heart-wrenching the thought of moving away from it is to her. The cottage is an obsession to the heroine, something she thinks about day and night. Her love for this place gets to the point where it excludes her love for anything or anyone else. Hannah's sister Jane, for instance, comes down with a grave illness because she must work six and a half days a week as a maid to help put food on the table, when she could have been spared it
altogether had Hannah sold the cottage. Hannah, of course, has not gone out to find work. She spends her days painting at "Solitude", all of her time her own.
Hannah also lets her love of the cottage come between her and Beau. When she eventually learns the role he has played in getting her precious "Solitude" taken away from her, she refuses to see his side of things, refuses to acknowledge his need to keep Katherine's name intact. Instead, despite his sorrow, anguish, and repeated confessions of love and guilt, she pushes him further away, barely speaking to him for the better part of the novel's entire last half. About two hundred or so pages into the book, you begin wishing someone would take an ax to the cottage so it would cease to be an issue. Or that Beau would get the cottage back for Hannah and let the woman continue out her meaningless existence there for the rest of her pathetic life.
The worst aspect of the novel stems simply from the fact that it is depressing. There is little joy to be found in An English Rose. From killing off characters you come to care about to Beau's unrequited love throughout the whole of the read, this book leaves you with a sad, sunken feeling. Even at the end, when everything is supposedly all right between the hero and heroine, we are told little of it. The epilogue is devoted to the ridiculous cottage of all things, instead of used as most authors would to tell us that
Beau and Hannah did indeed live happily-ever-after, buy a house with a white picket fence, and make a score of babies together.
An English Rose is well-written and once you get through the first half, it does manage to keep your attention, just not in a very upbeat way. Unless you enjoy reading harrowing sagas where little happiness is to be found, however, I would think twice before purchasing An English Rose.