|“You’ll laugh out loud,” says a cover blurb on Love is Blind. Surely that comment was meant for another book altogether – seriously, I think there was a mix-up in production. It does not appear as though the author intended this to be a particularly humorous book, which is a good thing, as it is not.
For a decade, Clarissa Crambray has been hidden away in the country. Her father hoped that the scandal resulting from the abduction, marriage and subsequent annulment that befell her when she was only 14 would dissipate. But the ton is not as concerned with ancient scandal as they are with today’s fresh gossip, and Clarissa is providing plenty of that. She is not exactly taking London by storm – a series of stumbles, bumbles and dangerous pratfalls has most eligible bachelors cutting a wide swath around her. This clumsiness is caused by Clarissa’s lack of spectacles; she is practically blind without them, and her stepmother has insisted that she not appear in them in public. In a particularly cruel act, the wretched Lydia went so far as to crush Clarissa’s eyeglasses, so she lives every day in a fog, unable to read, eat in public, entertain callers without setting their hair on fire, or even dance without crushing the toes of her partners.
All of her partners, that is, except Adrian Montfort, Earl of Mowbray. Adrian is also back in London for the first time in a decade. While at war on the continent he had received a terrible wound to one side of his face, resulting in a hideous scar that made a mockery of the perfection of the unmarked side. Women fainted upon seeing this horror, so he took himself off to the country and has only allowed his affection for his widowed mother to drag him back to town; she is reentering society after mourning the death of Adrian’s father.
Adrian and Clarissa meet at a ball, where they enjoy a dance or two or five before her huffy stepmother drags her off. Clarissa is not to spend another minute with this rake, Lydia declares – he had ruined many an innocent, and surely his ruined face was a punishment from God for this. Clarissa isn’t so sure about the “ruined face” part; sure, she is without her spectacles, but she could see him quite well when he was near, and it didn’t appear to her that there was anything ruined about him. He is fun and interesting and attends to her welfare in the few encounters they manage out of Lydia’s sight. He reads to her and even provides a private picnic so she doesn’t have to starve at a ball. Of course the kindest thing he could do is procure her another pair of eyeglasses so she could do for herself, but he is unwilling to take the chance that she will want nothing more to do with him if she is able to see his face. This becomes particularly problematic when it becomes apparent that some of the “accidents” befalling Clarissa that had been chalked up to her lack of appropriate eyewear might not have been accidental at all, but deliberate attempts to injure or maybe even kill her.
None of this is particularly “funny,” as the cover blurb promises. In fact, it is rather tedious and not unlike middle school, which is surely the last time anyone worried about how they looked in glasses. She won’t put on her replacement spectacles because she fears they will make her so unattractive that Adrian will bolt; he doesn’t want her to have replacement spectacles because he fears that if she sees his horrid scar, Clarissa will bolt. Of all of the devices to keep hero and heroine apart, has there ever been one as lame as will she/won’t she wear her glasses? Lame, lame, lame. But comedy is not the only thing promised that fails to be delivered; the “romance” is not particularly romantic and the “mystery” is no big mystery. The development of Adrian and Clarissa’s relationship occurs over half a dozen clandestine meetings that mostly serve as opportunities to fill in the back-story as they explained themselves to each other. And the moment the mystery was introduced, I knew whodunit and why they dunit, and the attempts to direct attention elsewhere were lame, lame, lame.
There were also a number of bits of the story that didn’t seem quite right, such as: would an only child, heir to an Earl, be in the thick of battle? Could a closely watched young miss enjoy five dances with the same man at a ball before her supposedly eagle-eyed stepmother caught on? Were spectacles so hard to acquire that one would need to wait for a replacement set to arrive from home? Conversely, and only six pages later, could you also simply step into a store and walk out with a pair? And the abduction/marriage/annulment at 14 seemed extreme, and unlike anything I have ever come across. Equally jarring among these things that did not ring quite true was the behavior of the staff. It was not only that the most senior staff teased the Earl, his mother and his new wife – even the footmen, coach drivers and maids were surprisingly sassy-mouthed.
Maybe love is blind, but readers are surely not. Save your eyesight for more worthy material.