SPOILER ALERT ⚠
1 1/2 star
Don’t Tell Me You’ve Heard This One Before!
The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie is a tale of a Gaelic, black-haired, fiery-spirited lass forced by circumstances to become a thief to provide for her family, only to be thwarted by an arrogant, scar-faced, golden-haired Duke… Hmm. Where have I heard this plot before? Oh yes, Laurie McBain‘s Moonstruck Madness! Sadly, that’s where the similarities end. If you remove all the intelligent writing, the interesting side characters, and the sexual chemistry between the leads from McBain’s book, we have this dull, meandering read. Except for Jennifer Blake, I’ve come to find that Fawcett-published romances were rarely ever excellent, and this dud is another to put in the slush pile.
One day in Lancashire, England, some drunken soldiers looking for excitement come upon the house of the Avory family. They ransack the home, kill the dog, the Irish-born widow Lady Delilah, and her young son before raping the teenaged daughter. The eldest sister, and our heroine, Raven, was not in residence while this occurred, arriving in time to witness the aftermath of her home’s destruction. Raven flees with her sister Crystal to London to find comfort with relatives.
While her relations are suitably affluent, Raven and Christie find their financial circumstances are tenuous at best. A greedy land manager’s mishandling of their estate has left them destitute. Raven enters Society, going to balls while escorted by her adoring cousin Wesley, who is gaga over her. At a masquerade, she meets the Duke of Dorchester, Eric Draquewall, our hero, who is predictably cold and arrogant. The duke glares at Raven and then insults her, but to his shock, her response is to laugh in his face, causing the duke to vow that he’ll teach the haughty chit a lesson!
Responsible for her convalescing younger sister and reliant upon the charity of relatives, Raven decides she’s too good to marry a wealthy chinless wonder and within an instant (by page 35) resolves to become a thief, stealing jewels and precious items from the gentry who had welcomed her into their homes. Soon, tales of the audacious jewel thief make the round, who is given the sobriquet “the Black Cat.” (Get it? The heroine is named Raven and has black hair and green eyes, just like a black cat! And nobody even knew. Is this blowing your mind, or what?)
The handsome Duke of Dorchester, jealous of Raven’s close relationship with her cousin, hires an investigator to find out if they’re secret lovers. On page 60, what he finds is information that proves Raven behind the jewel-napping antics. He could reveal her secret, but as Eric is attracted to her (what do you think that glaring and insulting was all about? That’s how these old-school romance heroes showed how much they liked a girl!), he decides to blackmail her into being his mistress.
Or his wife. Or mistress. Eric’s not really sure. All he knows is whatever Raven’s got under her velvety skirts, he wants in on that.
Raven finds that she responds to Eric’s caresses, despite her initial distaste towards physical touch. Illogical as it seemed to me, Raven was so disturbed by the brutality perpetrated upon her sister that she vowed no man would ever touch her. Ironically, Crystal, the one who was violated, had an easy time finding healing through romantic and physical love. Ok, people react differently to trauma, and perhaps in the hands of a nuanced author, Raven’s survivor’s-guilt aversion to sex would have been a compelling part of her character. Alas, it isn’t. It’s just a plot contrivance to keep the hero and heroine from getting together.
It Keeps Going and Going and Going…
And so Eric and Raven engage in a cat-and-mouse, will-they-or-won’t-they game for a few more pages. Eric befriends Raven’s sister, showing he’s actually a nice guy. Eric’s mother thinks Raven would make the perfect wife for Eric. Raven resists the thought of marriage to this wealthy, handsome, nice, attractive Duke because…reasons?
When cousin Wesley finds out that Eric has been less than honorable with Raven, he challenges the Duke to a duel. Wesley is wounded in the swordfight, Eric is scarred, and later Raven’s sister gets married. Then Eric sweeps Raven off to his estate, declaring his love for her before they finally get it on. But Raven can’t be with Eric, because remember reasons! So she flees to America to mooch off other family members and his book is only halfway through, and… OMG, make it stop!
Eric follows Raven to America, blah, blah, blah, a possible other woman makes an appearance, blah, blah, blah, Eric and Raven reunite, blah, blah, blah, villain seeks revenge, blah, blah, blah, happy ending.
Final Analysis of The Treacherous Heart
Events happened, characters engaged in dialogue, time passed on, and it was so boring. All the pieces were in place, but the story was lifeless, like a dead frog connected by jumper cables to a car battery. Turn the ignition all you want; there’s just no spark here, no animation.
When dull writing is combined with a drawn-out, pale imitation of a better work, it makes for a 1 star read. In this case, as I do appreciate the Elaine Gignilliat cover, I’ll give this sucker 1 1/2 stars.