Christmas Angel, by Jo Beverley

19 Nov

Christmas Angel coverFor SLWendy’s TBR Challenge.

Okay, I admit it, this one is going to be a cheat.

Sort of.

Mostly.

Though I have at least three other Jo Beverley books in the TBR Mountain Range from Hell, I got this one just last week  because it was featured at Dear Author in one of the recent daily deals. Now, I’ve been hearing praise for Ms Beverley’s work for ages and decided to dive into this one, since it’s right there on my phone.

At that point, I wasn’t thinking about the TBR Challenge, but then Wendy reminded us that the review is due this week, and I panicked.

Again.

And this is the result.

Christmas Angel, by Jo Beverley

This is the third installment in The Company of Rogues series, though I found that it stands alone pretty well. There are some references to the previous stories, and a fairly brief explanation as to what the Company is/was for our male protagonist, but nothing overly intrusive.

Here’s the blurb (cribbed from Dear Author):

“IF ONLY THEY WOULDN’T KEEP FALLING IN LOVE WITH ME.”
Weary of war and diplomatic wandering, Leander Knollis, Earl of Charrington, wants a home, a wife, and a good old-fashioned English Christmas. As he seems unable to fall in love, however, he will only consider a marriage of convenience to a sensible woman. He is beginning to despair when he encounters the perfect candidate, a woman so devoted to her late husband’s memory that no one thinks she could ever love again….

CHRISTMAS IS COMING, AND THE CUPBOARD IS BARE.
Judith Rossiter is in no position to turn down the astonishing proposal, but it worries her. Why would an earl, and a most attractive one at that, offer marriage to an impoverished widow with two young children? At least his main condition should be easy enough to fulfill. After the folly of Judith’s first marriage, a sensible rather than a sentimental union is exactly what she wants. Or so she believes when she says her vows…

Because I’ve bought more than a couple of (for me) duds when they are on sale, I was at least a little bit cautious this one time, and took the time to read the sample on amazon (two chapters and change, almost ten percent, not bad) and since I liked that, I clicked.

Sadly, things tarted to go downhill just a handful of chapters later, and the balance is that I’m not only not blown away, I had a few moments where I could have liked to shake some sense into the heroine, and pave over some of the more outrageous plot holes.

As the story starts, both our protagonists have fairly pressing problems. Leander, who wins the eccentric family members sweepstakes, wants to marry a proper Englishwoman in the hopes that she’ll help him settle into his role as both Earl of Charrington and landowner. Judith has two children and no money. Marrying each other would seem the easiest way out of their respective jams.

Provided, of course, that neither fall in love with the other.

Which, this being a romance, they do.

My problems with Judith started quite early on, because her character just didn’t make sense to me. By turns, she’s suspicious as hell and naïve to the point of being denser than a brick wall.

We are told that she married at sixteen and her husband, a poet of some renown, died some twelve years later, leaving her and their children next to destitute. Only the charity of her late husband’s brother, who sends a pittance every quarter, has kept them from the poorhouse. She’s pretty desperate because if push comes to shove, her own family can only offer them room and board, and she wants better for her children.

She’s at first suspicious when an earl, no less, proposes marriage–and more so when she’s told that the only condition is that she not fall in love with him. Needs must, however, and she accepts the offer.

So far she makes sense, right?

Except her next step is to overreact to a ridiculous degree about Leander disciplining her children. Before even asking what has happened, she breaks the engagement. Of course, they reconcile, and get married, but the very next time something iffy happens, she blames him and his sorta-kinda, more or less, estranged family.

She’s also deeply suspicious of the printer/publisher for her late husband’s work, to the point of not asking any questions when presented with an outstanding balance of more than a hundred guineas–more than a year after his death! Not suspicious enough not to pay the debt, mind you; only enough not to actually ask any pertinent questions.

However, the brother-in-law she had never met? Oh, he‘s trustworthy. She doesn’t like him, but never questions anything he tells her.

Sorry, what?

Then we have the Leander family history subplot, which makes absolutely no sense.

We are told that Leander has been told to hate the family seat and mistrust his uncle’s motivations by his father, the late Earl. We are also told that there may be missing money–a lot of missing money–and that the accounting for all the entailed properties is tangled up with that of the main property. And we are told that Leander suspects that his uncle’s family may be trying to get rid off him–cue suspenseful music in the background.

Wouldn’t you expect some sort of confrontation, or at the very least some family drama?

Instead, when they finally make it there, we have a three page conversation and a so-called explanation about the missing thousands of pounds in income from all the properties, which in fact explains nothing. But Leander accepts every single word as gospel, and now the family ties are restored.

Excuse me, wasn’t this the overwhelming conflict that drove Leander to marry Judith in the first place?

Don’t even get me started on the rest of the plot (how did the villain know where to find them, again? was he following them, and if so, how come they didn’t even notice? traffic on the roads?).

And then dialogue like this:

“Lee, I’m sorry, but Bastian’s disappeared.”

“No!” wailed Judith.

Um.

The two children are by turns too young and too mature for their ages, which made them too transparent a plot device for my taste.

I understand that this book was originally released in the early 1990s, which accounts for the excessive melodrama, and probably explains my lack of patience with it all, but I confess that I’m deeply disappointed by my first Jo Beverley. I will eventually try another of her books, but at this point I’m in no hurry.

Christmas Angel gets a 5.00 out of 10.

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4 Responses to “Christmas Angel, by Jo Beverley”

  1. willaful 19/11/2014 at 12:48 PM #

    I think this is one of her weakest books… kind of an unfortunate starting point.

    • azteclady 19/11/2014 at 1:03 PM #

      This is actually good news for me, because now I can look forward to any of the other titles in the TBR bookcases. I will let some time pass, though.

  2. SuperWendy 19/11/2014 at 5:40 PM #

    I always tweet TBR linkage on Twitter and someone else piped up that yours was a “good review” and yeah, “not Beverley’s best.” So there is hope!

    • azteclady 20/11/2014 at 8:46 AM #

      Well, I’m not giving up on her–this is one of her earliest books, after all.

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