When my cat destroyed the cover of my edition of Beloved Enemy, chewing it to shreds, I lamented the loss of the pretty cover, although I cared nothing for the book. To be frank, Beloved Enemy begins with an intriguing premise, but about 20 pages in, the annoying “insta-luv” trope rears its head, and everything goes downhill from there.
I’ve read Jane Feather books before; they’re the kind one loves or hates, and usually, I’ve enjoyed them. One positive about this was that it was originally published as a Zebra Heartfire in 1987, and compared to other Zebras, the writing is like Tolstoy.
Such a shame as I love English Civil War and Restoration Era romances filled with priggish Roundheads & debauched Cavaliers. Ginny Courtney is a war widow, her brother presumed dead, and her family fiercely loyal to the crown. At the same time, Alex Marshall is a Colonel in Cromwell’s Army, taking command of her family home as his army looks for fugitives.
The hero is…not charismatic. All he does is shout and yell at the heroine. He also has one of the worst pet names I’ve heard a hero give his heroine. Alex calls her his beloved “chicken.” No, not his “henny” or something cute like “chickadee” or even “pigeon.” If Ginny ever reciprocated in kind by called him her “cock,” Feather never let us readers know; more’s the pity.
They fall for each other instantly, although why I don’t know. He has zero charm, and she never trusts him, hiding from him various secrets. Even though Alex is her enemy and her “captor,” Ginny chooses to be Alex’s personal camp follower. I don’t know how authentic it was for a supposed Puritan Colonel to have his high-connected Loyalist lover follow him from camp to camp, but how important is historical accuracy in these books?
Ginny even gets to talk to King Charles and acts as his spy, passing on information.
Alex and Ginny go from location to location, bivouacking and decamping from town to town as occupying an occupying army would do. Unfortunately, Beloved Enemy takes about three hundred pages for any action to start. When it does, it’s a bit wild, from accusations of witchcraft, death of an interesting secondary character, a return from the dead, more death…
Final Analysis of Beloved Enemy
If it takes more than half the book for a story to get going, it’s too late for me to care. I don’t mind a slow burn build-up, but this book was one half of nothing happening, then for the other half, everything was tossed into the plot but the kitchen sink. As a result, the pacing was uneven, the book took an excruciating 500 pages to tell its story, when it should have been cut down toa tight 350.
This book blew like a Category 4 Hurricane; it could have been worse, but it wasn’t a fun time. All through the dull parts, I kept thinking, “Why am I reading this boring book?” Sure it ticked boxes of categories I love, such as: an illicit romance among enemies; a redheaded, stoic military hero; and a pretty Zebra cover by Ray Kursar. However, it was so tedious. Still, I finished it. Was not impressed.
As said, boring it may have been, for what it was, it was written by Jane Feather, an author with some literary skill talent. So I’ll give it a two-star rating. Doubtful I am, though, that I’d be so generous if I had read the reissue or Kindle version and not have been so dazzled by the Kursar cover. So take this review with a grain of salt.