2004, European Historical Romance (1830s England)
Jove, $7.99, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0515136549 Part of a series
Catherine Coulter is what I call a "best of times, worst of times" kind of author. You never know what you are going to get when reading one of her books; it is like a tale of two authors. One book can be absolutely wonderful and the next wretched. Readers tend to either love her or hate her, and many that once loved her gave up on her years ago. I'm one reader still reading her historicals set in Britain. The Sherbrooke Twins is set in Britain and, as it turns out, is one of her better books.
Coulter's latest is titularly about twins James and Jason Sherbrooke, whose parents are the unforgettable Douglas and Alexandra Sherbrooke (The Sherbrooke Bride). But just as much as it is about the twins, it is also about the rest of the family. James Sherbrooke, the elder by 28 minutes, is a solid, charming and dependable young man, ready to take on the responsibility of the family estates. Jason, on the other hand, is a bit wilder and still enjoys sowing his wild oats more than anything else. Even though James is steady and reliable, he is not quite ready to settle down. But things take a turn for the unexpected when James is forced to save a young womanís reputation.
Corrie Tybourne Barrett lived next to James and Jason practically her whole life. She is a very strong and opinionated young woman, ready to take on the world and the Sherbrooke twins (James in particular). As much as she is constantly taunting and teasing James, it is obvious she cares deeply for the man and would do anything for him. He, though, still thinks of her as a little girl, much like a sister. Then she has the chance to not only prove that she has grown up into an attractive young woman, but that she would also do anything for James, even if it will endanger her own life.
As much as the author writes about James and Jason, she also fills us in on the present lives of their parents, and Douglas Sherbrooke is in danger. The most logical enemy is Georges Cadoudal, with whom Douglas previously had dealings. But they left on friendly terms, and Georges is supposedly dead. So who could be after the earl? No one knows, but plenty of people have made it their mission to protect Douglas, including James and Jason. Because the earl is in danger, so too is his family. Suddenly, James finds himself in dire straits with only the help of his lifetime bratty neighbor, Corrie, to come to his rescue. Yet, Corrieís love for James and her mission to save him end up shredding her reputation, and that is when James must come to her rescue. James, though, isnít the only one having relationship problems. The Sherbrooke butler, who should have retired years ago, suddenly has a new love. And Jason, who has mostly been interested in getting to know every attractive young woman he can, is suddenly falling for a woman with whom he could actually see himself settling down.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book, there were some minor problems, including one encountered in the very first chapter. Both James and Corrie turned me off; indeed, the first paragraph illustrates Corrie as truly irritating. She is bossy, obnoxious, and constantly sneers at James. To get back at her, James throws her across his knees and spanks her. Itís a scenario I have read before and a scenario that I detest: men showing their strength and dominance by spanking the heroine. No matter how insufferable the heroine seems, it is still belittling and not at all attractive in a hero. Fortunately, Corrie immediately becomes much less grating and we start to understand why she is so loathsome toward James. And James becomes much less dominating and more of the honorable hero that most readers enjoy.
My second problem with the book concerns a lack of romantic material. The story is still intriguing, but I would have loved to see more romance between James and Corrie. It is obvious Corrie is in love with James, but we are not so sure that James feels the same way. Not only this, but it also takes them a rather long time to become intimate. Had their romance developed more quickly, the intimacy of their relationship would also have occurred earlier, and would have made the relationship more believable overall. But the story is not only about James and Corrie; it's about the suspense and danger the entire family endures for their father's sake, which is how I can grade the book so highly even though I decried the lack of romance. Readers not as invested in the Sherbrookes may come to a different conclusion.
The Sherbrooke Twins is otherwise highly enjoyable and quite readable, mostly because it showcases what's good about Coulter's writing. At her best she brings together colorful primary and secondary characters, provides witty banter, strong alpha males, extraordinary and lovable females, great suspense, high romance, and passionate love scenes. For those of us who continue to crave the Sherbrooke clan there are hints of future books, in particular with Jason, which I cannot wait to read and have a feeling it will be a much more romantic tale. Although not perfect, this can still be counted as the kind of writing that earned Coulter her loyal readers and will keep them coming back for more. If only all of her books could be this way.
-- Lori Sowell
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