My True Love

Total Surrender

Complete Abandon by Cheryl Holt
(St. Martins, $6.50, NC-17) ISBN 0-312-98460-X
It’s difficult to enjoy a book when the two main characters are unlikable, the plot is asinine and the only action is sex. Sadly, that is exactly what’s in store for readers in Complete Abandon.

From beginning to end, the action is all sexual in nature. Viscount John Wakefield has come to his country estate to set financial matters straight. He brings with him his half brother and his mistress. We meet the lord of the manor on page one as he is enjoying an interaction with his mistress in his library.

Outside the library stands a young woman, Emma Fitzgerald. She is the previous vicar’s daughter and she has come to demand that Wakefield rescind the eviction notices he has just sent to all the tenants on his estate, including her. She lives in a hovel of a cottage with her ill mother and her younger sister. She is a do-gooder and all the tenants look to her for help. Emma is looking at nothing but the copulation occurring in the library. She is shocked, yet intrigued. She assumes this is part of the entourage rumored to have come with the Viscount. So she literally stands there watching the entire thing, analyzing technique and what she perceives to be lack of emotional involvement.

She then gets up her dander and demands to see the Viscount, only to discover this is the man she was watching! An argument ensues and they enter into an agreement, which is put down in writing. The agreement is that the evictions will be cancelled; one eviction for every time Emma has sexual relations with the Viscount. Wakefield is furious about the situation, and Emma is convinced she can control him, keeping him from seducing her, but still canceling the evictions.

That is it. The plot revolves around Emma saying no and John saying yes. Eventually John wins out completely, although they have several encounters where Emma walks away technically a virgin, but not due to lack of foreplay and alternative methods of sex.

From page one, I was less than enchanted. Emma is one of those heroines who is Too Stupid to Live. She is supposedly a saintly person who spends all her time doing good deeds, including being a midwife. She must take care of her mother and works hard to keep food on the table for her mother and sister. Yet she seems to spend all her time with John.

Wakefield is a cad of the worst kind. He is not reformed, nor does he care to be. He has some sob story about his father hating him, which has made him be the reprobate he is today. This was not well developed and other than his penchant for sex, neither was the rest of his character.

At one point, Emma is trying to figure out why she loves Wakefield and describes him in this way: “He was rude, tyrannical, spoiled rotten, a licentious libertine with a different woman behind every door. Yet, …he could also be kind, considerate, benevolent and they shared a…physical magnetism that couldn’t be disregarded.”

My only disagreement lies in the fact that there is no evidence that he is kind, considerate or benevolent. All the rest is true. Why would that be attractive to anyone, let alone a vicar’s daughter who is supposedly naïve and pure?

Wakefield’s half-brother Ian is the only character that is halfway likable, but even he is a hanger-on and unable to be his own man. At times it seems that he will come to Emma’s rescue and that he will be the hero. Then he seems to disappear into the scenery, only to pop up again later. He becomes involved with a woman who wants to be betrothed to Wakefield and there is a hint they may get their own story someday. Ian, however, has secrets of his own, and these make him look like a devious villain in the end.

Heed the NC-17 rating, too. Please understand that I usually enjoy many stories with some explicit sexual activity. But I truly felt this author threw the sex in for no reason other than there was nothing else to write about due to the weakness of the plot. There is even some degenerate sex in the brief side story about the new vicar wanting to marry Emma.

Complete Abandon should be just that, abandoned by all readers looking for a good romance.

--Shirley Lyons

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