Many three-heart books earn that rating because they are uneven. I've rated books three hears because they got off to a strong start, lost their direction midway, and limped to a weak finish. I've reviewed books with strong beginnings and strong endings and midsections so weak I could scarcely read them. Kasey Michaels' Someone to Love is an example of a book that starts poorly, then picks up speed about halfway through, for an enjoyable second half.
The plot is that evergreen staple of Regency romance, the marriage of convenience. Kipp Rutland, Viscount Willoughby, wants to be married within the next two months, before the love of his life - and the bride of Jack Coltrane - returns from America. No way Kipp wants Merry Coltrane to think he's still pining for her; he wants her to come back to find him blissfully wed. Paradoxically - and incompatibly - he doesn't want marriage to change his life as a footloose and fancy-free bachelor. He figures a pretty young miss will fill the bill perfectly.
Abigail Backworth-Maldon is no young miss, not by Regency standards anyway. She is 23 and has been married and widowed. An old Scottish proverb says, "Never marry a widow unless her husband was hanged for a horse thief." Abby's husband outdid the proverb: he hanged himself climbing out a window to avoid an irate husband. His legacy to Abby - besides poverty - was a collection of eccentric relatives...his fiftyish twin brothers who are obsessed with getting back the race horse he gambled away, his alcoholic sister, his sister's nasty little dog, his slimy nephew, and his beautiful but ditzy 16-year-old niece. Almost any marriage would be convenient for Abby, let alone marriage to a wealthy, handsome aristocrat.
Kipp initially thinks that Abby's niece, Edwardine, might suit him. His friend, Brady James, Earl of Singleton, has other ideas. He thinks that Kipp is all too comfortable in his life and needs shaking up. Abigail Backworth-Maldon, with her entourage of outlandish relatives, will do just that, he thinks.
He begins by throwing Kipp together with Edwardine, knowing that Edwardine's inane conversation will make her chaperone - Abby - look more attractive. Within a week, the effectiveness of Brady's plan becomes apparent, and Abby and Kipp have agreed to a marriage of convenience - but not an unconsummated marriage. They both want children and, in a refreshing variation, Abby knows she likes sex.
Up until Abby and Kipp decided to marry, I struggled with Someone to Love, mostly because it devotes so much space to Abby's relatives-by-marriage. The twin uncles, Dagwood and Bailey, seem to have been inspired by Disney's Tweedledee and Tweedledum but lack their charm. Edwardine's idiocy is somewhat explained by her youth and myopia, but her character still does not convince. Her brother, Ignatius (known as Iggy) is an offensive combination of effeminateness and villainy. Their mother's only redeeming characteristic is that she has very little part in the story.
Note the names of the characters. The twins' names invoke comic strips, and the loathsome brother is called by a diminutive that defines him. Both are symptomatic of the arch tone of Someone to Love. A little arch, in my experience, goes a long way. Michaels gives us so much that it cloys, beginning early in the narrative. If I had not been reviewing the book, her writing style, plus the fact that I never found Brady's machinations credible, would have caused me to stop reading long before I got to the enjoyable second half.
Kipp and Abby are the most convincing characters in the cast, and once they are married, their reactions and adjustments made for amusing reading. Too bad I had to read the other half of the book first.
--Nancy J. Silberstein