Fairy Tale

Indiscretion by Jillian Hunter
(Sonnet, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-671-02683-6
Anne Kerr and Patrick Sutherland have a past. Seven years ago, their eyes met across a church pew, and soon Anne was riding out to meet him at an abandoned ruin for a day of lust and abandon. She was betrothed to another man -- Patrick's cousin, in fact -- and he was about to leave with his regiment. Their day together was indelibly seared into their memories, however. Now they meet again -- Anne as a widow, Patrick as a viscount.

Patrick has never forgotten the pretty young girl who so willingly met his sexual appetites. When Queen Victoria summons him and Anne, he at last has a chance to talk with her, after being shunned by her for years. He'd like to renew their relationship. This could grow into much more than simple lust. He's older now, he explains, wiser, not the impetuous young man who loved and left so easily. Anne, for her part, is just as attracted, just as haunted by their encounter. So what does our fair heroine do? Grab this second chance and hang on for all it's worth? Think back on her own culpability (after all, she willingly went to him all those years ago) and try for a second start with the man she's never forgotten?

Heavens no. She decides to make him pay.

Yes, readers, we are in for the Revenge of the Shrewish Heroine Who Can't Accept Her Own Responsibility and Blames the Hero, Instead. And even a second reading of the book didn't improve her.

Anne and Patrick are sent by the Queen to Scotland, to investigate the death of a nobleman. It might have been murder. The Queen can't have people run around murdering noblemen, so she places the investigation in the hands of a trusted friend, Patrick's Auntie Nellwyn. Nellwyn decides to flush out the murderer at Anne's estate during an annual shooting party. Patrick needs to go in disguise. He'll be Anne's butler.

This, of course, gives Anne the perfect excuse to keep Patrick twisting in the wind for most of the book. He's not in a position to refuse the Queen, but he'll be a damned impertinent butler. If Anne is determined to exact her revenge and deny their attraction, well, he's equally determined to make her see the light.

This begs the question: "Why?" They've had one day of hot sex seven years ago. Now Patrick is hell-bent on recapturing her attention. This was little to build on except the sex, since Anne spends most of the book being a shrew. And herein lies the problem for this reader: I did not believe in the romance. And I wanted to slap the heroine.

Patrick is a great hero. In fact, he's so good that Anne stands out in relief as more annoying than ever. He's funny, brash, honest (how refreshing to have a hero admit he screwed up years ago and wants to make thing right) and has sexual charm in spades. In fact, he's the only reason this book is sporting a two-heart rating.

Anne is his opposite, and in this case, it's not attractive. She whines over and over that Patrick disgraced her, that he ruined her life, that he abandoned her. The fact that she threw herself into his arms knowing full well she was already betrothed does not even seem to register. Her mild guilt at having been a less-than-passionate wife is more reason to blame Patrick. If he hadn't shown her what passion was, her marriage might have been better. As for Anne simply admitting that she made an impulsive decision in a fit of youthful rebellion, and maybe now that she's a bit older she can meet Patrick on adult terms and forge a relationship -- well, forgetaboutit. She remains as immature at the end as she appears in the beginning.

So there you have it. Two hundred some pages of Anne's Revenge, followed by a lightning-quick turnaround at the end. As for the murder, it's pretty much a throwaway plot just to keep them in Scotland and introduce a secondary character to make Patrick jealous. I can't recommend Indiscretion. If you don't mind these types of heroines, you may feel differently.

--Cathy Sova

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