Friday, August 13, 2010

"Never Resist Temptation," by Miranda Neville

The Chick: Jacobin de Chastelux, a.k.a. "Jane Castle," a.k.a. "Jacob Leon." Problem the first: her dastardly uncle loses her in a card game. Problem the second: he's later poisoned by a dessert she prepared disguised as a boy in the Prince Regent's kitchens.
The Rub: Problem the third: to escape investigation, she has to take a last-minute job offer from the Earl of Storrington - the same dude who won her in a card game.
Dream Casting: Little Dorrit's Claire Foy.

The Dude: Anthony Storr, Earl Storrington. Determined to ruin Lord Candover to avenge the death of his mother, he hires a talented young pastry chef in order to lure the gluttonous lord to his estate and into a card game Anthony's determined he lose.
The Rub: His male pastry chef's actually a female pastry chef - and one who has an even better motive for poisoning Candover than he does.
Dream Casting: Jude Law.

The Plot:

Candover: Hey, in this card game, can I bet my niece?

Anthony: Sure, I don't see any proble-- wait, wut?

Months Later

Jacobin: My uncle is such a pig! So glad I ran away and posed as a male pastry chef to escape! I hope he chokes to death!

Investigator: Dude! Candover's been poisoned!

Jacobin: Yaay! Wait, wut?

Anthony: Need a job?

Jacobin: If it gets me out of this pickle, then yes!

Anthony: Hope you don't mind that I already know who you are and didn't tell you and by the way you're pretty.

Jacobin: Oh, what a nice thing to say -- wait, wut?

Anthony: I'm pretty sure someone else killed Candover and is trying to frame you. Any ideas?

Jacobin: Well, I know who it couldn't be, he's such a gentle, harmless...

Villain: Not entirely harmless...

Jacobin: Wait, WUT? Ugh, my head hurts. Let's get married, Anthony.

Anthony: HOORAY!

Romance Convention Checklist
1 Cross-Dressing Half-French Pasty Chef

1 Vengeful Aristocrat

1 Brief Moment of Gay Panic ("Why is this strangely slender and pretty boy so darn ATTRACTIVE?")

Several Panicked Gays

2 Aliases

1 Poisoned Bavarian Rose Cream

1 Case of Mommy Issues

4 Inconveniently Dead Parents

1 Sexual-Innuendo Urn

The Word:
The novel opens as Anthony Storr, Earl Storrington, wins a woman in a card game. Playing cards with a disgusting nobleman named Lord Candover -- whose chief aim in life seems to be embodying as many of the mortal sins as possible at one time (excelling especially at Pride, Wrath, and Gluttony, but still with heavy measures of Lust, Sloth, Greed and Envy) -- Storr got roped into the bargain in a lapse of judgment. He's on a mission to ruin and bankrupt Candover to avenge a family dishonour, and in a moment of weakness permits the man to offer his niece as a twenty-thousand-pound marker.

To his immense relief, he's spared an awkward and distasteful situation when the girl elopes with a French pastry chef before Candover can seal his end of the deal. Even better - now that the girl's off the table, the dissipated Candover owes Anthony twenty thousand pounds. However, the lord somehow manages to round up the cash - leaving Anthony to come up with another plan to destroy Candover and get his revenge.

Jacobin de Chastelux is no man's possession. Her uncle was a bad enough guardian to her after her parents died in Paris, but to be pawned off to one of his older, roue friends? She'd rather die. Three months later, she's working in the Prince Regent's own kitchen in disguise as "Jacob Leon," helping prepare sumptuous desserts for his famous feasts. When she does an especially good job at a particular dinner, she receives a job offer from none other than Anthony, Earl Storrington - who turns out to be much younger and more handsome than she'd expected. However, Jacobin knows better than to trust a man debauched enough to bet a woman's life in a card game, and refuses.

Trouble seems to follow her everywhere, though, as one of the guests ends up poisoned by one of the desserts she prepared - and not just any guest, but Lord Candover.

As investigators converge on the kitchen, Jacobin knows she's in serious trouble - 1) she prepared the tainted dessert, 2) while working under a false name because 3) she's the victim's estranged niece. Three very good reasons to take her straight to the gallows. Desperate to escape, she goes to Anthony and accepts his job offer.

Anthony knows that the only thing Lord Candover loves more than gambling is French pastry, so he hopes that by hiring a talented chef, he will once again be able to lure Candover to his estate. While he swiftly realizes his chef is a woman (who calls herself "Jane Castle"), and an attractive one, at that, he decides to keep her on anyway.

Never Resist Temptation was an odd book - while there were parts that entertained me, there were just as many parts that threw me off, resulting in a more or less neutral, or "m'eh" grade.

As something on the Good List, Anthony was a remarkably interesting character, and observant enough to see through both of Jacobin's aliases on his own brainpower, while still remaining girl-stupid enough to screw things up with Jacobin on a number of occasions. I enjoyed reading some of the subtler aspects of his Mommy Issues. His mother succumbed to depression after giving birth to his sister Kitty, and his instinctive coldness and subconscious resentment towards his sister was intriguing.

However, on the Bad List is the actual reason behind Anthony's thirst for revenge. (Mild Spoilers ahead). He believes his mother drowned in the process of running away with a secret lover (whom he believes was Candover), when in truth, she killed herself. On his property. It was hard enough believing he couldn't figure this out on his own, or that he never heard even a rumour pertaining to the real truth considering how many people are willing to drop anvil-sized hints in Jacobin's presence.

Considering how easily he discovers "Jacob Leon" --> "Jane Castle" --> Jacobin de Chastelux, the fact he remains so completely and utterly wrong about the circumstances of his own mother's death (like the fact he believes she died at sea instead of in the millrace not a hundred feet from his house) strains my credibility, especially considering how easily other members of his family figured it out.

And without giving the entire freakin' novel away, the ultimate reason behind his mother's depression stretched far beyond my capability to suspend disbelief and seemed unbelievably contrived. The whole construction of the Mother's Mystery plot was flimsy and poorly-constructed - with dates and timelines and some of the mechanics of the backstory never quite fitting.

As for Jacobin, while she's not completely unlikeable and not entirely TSTL, she tap dances down the thin line between Fiery and El Loco for most of the book. Yes, yes, I get that she's French and in historical romance anyone not Purely British must needs be Crazy and High Maintenance, but Leonie from These Old Shades would eat her for breakfast. Truth be told, Jacobin was much like this book - parts of her were pretty exceptional (like she actually says yes to a mistress offer instead of sticking her nose in the air, and how she says, "He hasn't said he loved me? Ha - not after I'm through with him"), and parts of her really grated (like her ridiculous idea to break into a neighbour's house looking for random pieces of evidence), and as a result, looking back a few days after I read her, she's not really that memorable.

Never Resist Temptation is far from a terrible read, and comes with some interesting perspective (especially of the servants quarters, where Jacobin works) as well as a legitimately tough situation for our heroine. However - the plot is wispier than meringue and the heroine occasionally flakey.

In a word: m'eh.B-

No comments:

Post a Comment