REVIEW: Dedication by Janet MullanySunday, August 19, 2012 1:00
I like the sound of this book from the blurb, and for the most part the concept works quite well. Where it stumbles for me is when a huge pet peeve of mine is shaken awake and is never put back to sleep until the very end.
Twenty years ago Adam and Fabienne were in love, but when they went their separate ways, a lot of hurt was left on both sides. Now they’re back in each other’s lives when Adam’s godson becomes enamored of Fabienne’s young artist, Elaine, whom she’s taken under her wing. From the moment they meet again, there’s an antagonism between them that comes to the fore due to the way things were left between them in the past, despite the attraction that is still there. They’re thrown together at every turn now, Fabienne not knowing she’s corresponding and also talking to her favorite author, Mrs. Ravenwood. Adam’s secret, successful writing career stems from stories he wove for his wife, Mags, as she lay dying. He’s worried about discovery of writing such effeminate books, and after they’ve exchanged letters, Adam tries to obtain his from Fabienne. She refuses, thus leading Adam to try everything to get his hands on them.
I like the idea of an older hero and heroine. Adam is in his early 40s and Fabienne her late 30s. They’ve both had satisfying lives they wouldn’t have had otherwise if they’d not parted years ago. Adam is even a grandfather. His son is currently at sea and his daughter, Barbara, is in an abusive marriage. He tries to help Babs the best he can, but eventually Captain Sanders discovers his wife’s whereabouts and comes to collect her and his children. Babs agrees to go with the man and Adam washes his hands of her. At least until she needs him again, but when that time comes, the situation has been taken out of hands by members of a secret organization he’d joined in his youth that is now coming back to haunt him. Fabienne also factors into that part of his life, wanting to know the identities of some of those members connected to her younger years, but Adam holds to his vows and refuses to give her any information.
What is interspersed in between all of this and other goings-on is what made the story drag for me. At every turn Adam and Fabienne are sniping at one another. Or Barbara and her father are arguing, tossing around blame about whatever subject. Or Elaine and Fabienne are going at it. There’s just too much antagonism throughout the book. I know that Adam and Fabienne have a lot to get through, but some of the issues that she throws at Adam, especially as often as she does, aren’t big enough problems to cause such a ruckus. Barbara has a grievance in the fact that her father still treats her as though she’s quite young, which is legitimate, but instead of talking to the man, she starts bickering, causing him to warn her of her place. This happens a number of times, and it’s not until Fabienne tells Barbara her father loves her that she begins to see things differently. And Elaine. Heavens, the girl should have more compassion, but she rails at Fabienne when some truths are finally revealed. All of this just goes on much too long, leaving very little time at the end for some good feelings and all that love that should have been used earlier in the book. I wanted to thump Fabienne upside the head for every time Adam had to say, “I beg your pardon,” along with giving her a courtly bow every time she took umbrage with something.
All that being said, there are some nice moments in the story. I like the sort of comedy of errors with the Mrs. Ravenwood persona. Both Adam and Fabienne make certain and erroneous assumptions about each other in this scenario, which lead to other issues for them later, and I was curious throughout how it would all resolve. I also like the story involving Elaine, though it would have been much better if her attitude had been different earlier rather than later. Adam is my favorite character. He’s a simple country gentleman who raises pigs, is now responsible, honorable and loyal, tries to take care of those who rely on him. In a twist that just doesn’t work for me, it’s Fabienne who is arrogant, taking lovers, and moving amid society. With her attitude through the book, she’s too haughty for me, but I know a lot of readers enjoy a heroine like her.
As far as the villain to tie up all the loose ends and solve the mystery, it’s actually a little too convenient, and the reason for all the heartache, I’m not sure I believe it totally. This is not your normal lightweight regency romance, but a good story if you don’t mind conflict constantly intruding.
Adam and Fabienne came of age and fell wildly in love during a time of revolution but times have changed. Now he’s a respectable country gentleman and she’s a powerful patroness of the arts and they have little in common … or do they? She’s falling in love as she exchanges letters with a reclusive female gothic novelist, and Adam can’t help responding, but surely she knows who he really is, a man writing women’s books under a woman’s name? As their lives become entangled again after two decades apart, dark secrets and betrayals from the past are revealed, threatening them and others they love.
Read an excerpt.