2008, European Historical Romance (England Regency)
St. Martin's, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312942567
Not one character within Cheryl Holt’s Double Fantasy had any redeeming qualities, not the evil incestuous twins, the cruel hero, or the gullible heroine. When I finished reading, I felt as though I needed some sort of cleansing, something beyond that of an ordinary shower. Oh, and by the way, I don’t find the terms "fornicate," "phallus," or "fellatio" in any way erotic. Certainly clinical, but not erotic.
Jamieson (Jamie) Merrick and his brother Jack were practically thrown away as babies by their father, an earl, after their servant mother (and the earl’s secret wife) died shortly after their birth. Their existence was concealed and the earl went on to make a respectable marriage and have other children, one of whom would be his heir. Left to a life of hardship and torture, the boys grew up to become ruthless privateers. When someone anonymously proves that Jamieson is the earl’s true heir, he and his brother return to claim their birthright.
At the ancestral home, Jamie plans to evict his father’s family - his fraternal twin half-brother, half-sister, and their demented mother - and wed one of the two women who are the family’s wards. When he meets Anne, the younger of the two, he realizes he wants to marry her. From their first meeting they spar and bicker, yet are so attracted to one another that neither can resist the pull. The attraction is the same between Jack and Anne’s older sister, Sarah. Thrown into the mix is Percy, the half brother and former heir, and Ophelia, his twin sister and lover, who contrive to keep their inheritance and wreak havoc on all those around them.
I believe Holt was probably going for the tortured hero thing with Jamie and his brother. However, her idea of "tortured" seems to be selfish brutes who are completely unsympathetic, cruel, and crude. Anne needs a backbone and a brain, and no matter how sheltered she might have been, it's hard to imagine a woman who is entirely unaware of the existence of a penis. And I believe Sister Sarah was supposed to be a tormented heroine, but she came off whiny, shallow, and indecisive instead. Percy and Ophelia, the incestuous evil twins – there’s not much more to say about them other than that they were incestuous, evil, twins - and simply awful.
Furthermore, the dialogue and scenes between the characters infuriated me most of the time. I have to admit that I am not opposed to the proverbial bodice ripper – one of my all time favorite novels falls in that category - but it has to be well done and the hero has to be redeemable. Early on within this story, Jamie rips Anne’s bodice and her response is simply, “My dress! My dress!” At that point, my tolerance level was waned.
While Double Fantasy may appeal to some - although, quite frankly, I'm not sure who - it certainly wasn’t my cup of tea. If it wasn’t for review, it certainly would have hit my wall with a resounding thud.
-- Heather Brooks
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