Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Don't Look Back by Amanda Quick

Don’t bother to read this book unless you are at least 99 years old.

I can’t make up my mind. Did I like this book or not? The plot is completely inconsequential. Something to do with a piece of jewellery and mesmerism. As per a hundred other Quick novels. The romances between both the main and the subsidiary couple also don't matter a bean. So what is left to comment upon?

Well for me, two things. The relationship detail between the main couple and the eating habits described in the book. By both these criteria the story fails to truly entertain.

I expect there are some people in the world who view petty bickering between a couple as a sign of a lasting love. Not me though. I tend to think that a couple who bicker stay together only out of habit because it would be too much trouble, social and economic, to separate; or they stay together out of desperation because they know they would each struggle to find new partners. I have seen couples bicker in public and as an outsider looking on, I see mutual disrespect, not love or even affection. I like a peaceful, happy relationship between the hero and heroine.

Lavinia and Tobias bicker. Almost constantly. Also the heroine, although generally likeable, can be a mean shrew. Unnecessarily complaining about the cost of feeding the hero his breakfast and often having an argument with him for the sake of having an argument. I found it all a little wearing at times. There is a younger couple in the story but they do absolutely nothing except exist as a younger couple. And when I thought about their respective relationships to Lavinia and Tobias, I found their romance just a little, well, distasteful.

To give the author some credit she’s obviously tried to write about a couple who are not titled or super-rich. Nor are they dirt poor. Just ordinary people trying to make a living. Unfortunately it all becomes very mundane. And I ask myself. Why doesn’t Tobias buy a shoppe? Or support a more able person in the trade?

Don’t Look Back is an historical novel. How did I work that out? The heroine wears long dresses and the hero wears boots and breeches. The only mode of transport is horses. And to be honest I need very little more in the way of authenticity.

But for this story the author has obviously done some research on the dietary habits of the age. So we get plates of eggs and potatoes for breakfast, salmon and potato pie for lunch and current jam ad nauseum. How disgusting and stodgy is that? Not a single green vegetable makes an appearance. Do you know what a person who eats that sort of stuff on a regular basis looks like? Well. Round to put it politely. Very very round. So probably we have a podgy hero and heroine.

Strangely the author can do a lot better. In a much earlier novel set in medieval times, the author has the heroine going to a lot of bother and trouble in order to give the hero healthy green vegetables. Ok. It wasn’t particular authentic but it made the hero and heroine attractive to a modern readership. We all know in times past, most diets were rubbish as were the sanitary arrangements. That doesn’t mean we want to read all about them in every lightweight romance.

The emphasis on unhealthy food, plus the ache of an old wound for the hero puts this romance firmly in the geriatric genre. Although I expect the heroine is around 30 yo and the hero just about 40. But they read much older.

This is one of those rom-sus where all the crimes and suspects have a connection to the heroine’s past. How incredibly coincidental. I didn’t buy into any of it for one minute.

I recommend earlier Amanda Quick romances such as the fantastic Rendevous and the redeeming Dangerous. Both of which are infinitely better than Don’t Look Back.

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