Lost In Your Arms

Christina Dodd
2002, European Historical Romance (1840s [Victorian] England)
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0380819635
Part of a series

Grade: D-
Sensuality: Warm

Did you know we've granted Christina Dodd DIK status 5 times?

A while back, after hearing positive feedback about Christina Dodd I picked up Move Heaven and Earth. While not a keeper, it was a good enough read that when the chance came to review her upcoming release, Lost in Your Arms, I jumped at it. There was a fantastic improvement in the quality of the prose, but that couldn't make up for the fact that the characters were unlikable and the plot familiar.

Enid McLean may be willing to spin a fantasy about her marriage for the younger servants, but in truth if she never set eyes on Stephen McLean again it would be too soon. Unfortunately fate has other plans. McLean has been terribly injured in an explosion in the Crimea and is being guarded at the estate of Mr. Throckmorton. Enid does not wish to go McLean but is convinced it is her wifely duty and goes to him.

When she arrives at McLean’s bedside she’s horrified at his condition. Gravely wounded, he hovers near death and is being poorly cared for by a London physician. Enid, with Throckmorton’s approval, quickly takes over her husband’s care and soon has him on the road to health. There is only one problem: McLean has no memory of who is or why he was in the Crimea. Enid starts to realize things aren’t as they seem. Throckmorton is withholding information, and even though McLean’s eyes are the right color and his accent Scottish there’s something different about him. Soon an attempt on McLean’s life forces them to flee to his family home in Scotland and allows Enid her first glance at the truth.

My first issue with this book is the characters themselves. Enid is a cold fish and a shrew. Yes, she has reasons for disliking her husband Stephen, but we’re told over and over how compassionate Enid is and this simply isn't shown. She fights with McLean when he's ill and talks about him and belittles him as though he weren't right there in the room with her. She counters everything he says and when she knows the truth she uses her own issues with self-esteem to push him away.

McLean is frankly no better. The man is autocratic to the point of tyranny. He says “jump” and expects Enid and everyone else to respond “how high?” When he learns the truth about his identity he is viciously cruel to Enid and then has the gall to expect her to warm his sheets hours later without apology for his earlier outburst. As much as I disliked Enid I wanted her to take a frying pan to this boorish pig’s skull.

But my main issue with Lost in Your Arms is the plot, which is nothing more than substandard remake of Linda Howard’s White Lies, a terrific little series romance first published in 1988. Note the following similarities:

Lost in Your Arms
White Lies
Name of Enid’s husband - StephenName of Jay’s ex-husband - Steve
Reason for their estrangement - Stephen wouldn’t grow up and take responsibilityReason for their divorce - Steve wouldn’t grow up and take responsibility
Stephen is hurt in an explosion meant to assassinate an English spy and is so badly hurt that he’s almost unrecognizable.Steve is hurt in an explosion meant to assassinate an American spy and is so badly hurt that he’s almost unrecognizable.
When Enid first sees Stephen she touches his arm and thinks, “He is still warm. Still alive”When Jay first sees Steve she touches his arm and thinks, “He is warm. He is alive.”
One of Stephen’s first requests is that Enid check to see that the family jewels weren’t damaged.One of Steve’s first requests is that Jay check to see that the family jewels weren’t damaged.
After weeks together Enid realizes why Stephen seems so different, but doesn’t tell him the truth because she understands this is an elaborate scheme to protect him.After weeks together Jay realizes why Steve seems so different, but doesn’t tell him the truth because she understands this is an elaborate scheme to protect him.
When Stephen learns the truth he accuses Enid of staying with him for the money.When Steve realizes the truth he accuses Jay of staying with him for the money.
When the danger is over Enid runs off.When the danger is over Jay runs off.

There are many more similarities, but these are the surface ones without giving too much of the story away. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the differences in the book had improved it. Instead, what was varied made it worse. The change in the time period and setting made the story less believable. How could McLean have survived without modern medical treatment? And the additional twist of a second assassin only muddied the climactic scene with the original villain. Both villains were incredibly weak and never seemed all that threatening, particularly when we learn that assassin number one had numerous chances to slit McLean's throat but passed them over for less effective methods. And of course McLean and Enid were neither as engaging nor endearing as were Howards' characters.

Lost in Your Arms was a major disappointment and I was frustrated that I'd wasted my time with such unlikable characters and a preposterous plot. My advice? White Lies has been reissued twice since its original publication. Look for it instead because it features wonderful characters, a more digestible version of the plot, and is a moving tale of compassion and the lengths to which a person will go to protect the one they love.

-- Jennifer Schendel

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