Damsel in Disguise
by Susan Gee Heino
After reading Heino's debut book I couldn't wait to read this one. I love a "chick-in-pants" book, and with our heroine dressed as a man I was sure this book was going to be great. Alas, it was not. Not even a little bit.
Julia St. Clement is in a bit of a pickle. She's dressed as a man, wearing a most uncomfortable mustache, and pretending to be married to her friend Sophie so she can come back from the dead and save the man she loves. Well, yes, it would all be much more confusing for someone that wasn't an actress to manage, and for someone who didn't have a scoundrel for a father. Really, this sort of things seems to happen to her everyday.
Lord Anthony Rastmoor has trust issues. Three years ago he fell in love with an actress who led him a merry chase only to marry his arch enemy and die in childbirth while attempting to deliver Anthony's son. Still, he's a fool who can't get over Julia, the only woman he has ever loved. Which is why when he discovers that she isn't dead, and that her (ex? if he thinks she's dead are they not still married?) husband, still his arch enemy, is trying to kill him, his trust issues seem more valid than ever. And yet he can't seem to NOT be in love with Julia.
Convoluted enough for you? Well there's oh so much more, what with a scheming father, a missing locket, a secret lover, etc, etc. I won't go into all of it in case you decide to read the book yourself. But know there's a lot of plot to follow.
I really wanted to like this book. Heino's last/debut novel was a fun, if too long, convoluted farce that had me happily turning the pages. This story, on the other hand, is even longer (how is that even possible?), has a troupe of actors, a heroine in pants and mustache, a story that reminds me of a Shakespearean farce, a handsome hero, and yet was dull as dishwater to read. The fun of the last book just wasn't here to keep me turning the pages. The print in this book is tiny, so understand that this book should really be like 500 pages, and by page five I was already slogging through it. I love a good chick-in-pants book, but it would seem that a mustache can ruin anything, because I just couldn't enjoy our heroine in one. Pants or no pants.
There are a lot of things I didn't like about this book, the length being a big one. But my real trouble was that I just didn't like our hero and heroine, so a book filled with them was agonizing to read. What Julia did to Anthony was terrible and I didn't buy that he was having sex with her (even mad guilty sex) after their first re-meeting. Although I liked Anthony as a hero, I couldn't respect him for being with Julia, since *I* never forgave her. Not even by the end of the book.
The convoluted plot didn't flow well for me either. There were too many instances where I felt like I was reading the last book in a series where I hadn't read the other books. Too many characters. Too much plotting. Too many twists. Trying to keep up with it all was exhausting and boring.
Bottom Line: I'm not giving up on Heino. I think she's a good author. But I'm recommend you pass on this book and hope her next one is better.
“An actress, an earl, and a totally unbelievable plot.”
August 2010, 368 pages
After learning of a conspiracy to kill her estranged lover, a courageous beauty stages an attempt to save his life--no matter how many times she may have wished him dead...
An actress by trade, Julia St. Clement has never played a part so dangerous. With cropped hair, a false mustache, and her friend Sophie posing as her "wife", Julia sets out to warn Lord Anthony Rastmoor of the cruel plot against him.
Despite his betrayal years ago, she still loves him. Rastmoor, however, believes Julia died in another man's bed. His memories of their painful affair have left him wary of everyone. For instance, there's something very odd about this young couple he's just met, especially the husband. The man's face seems so familiar... and too pretty, somehow...
Then shots rip through the night and Julia's "wife" disappears. Rastmoor and Julia are left to form an uneasy alliance. It'll only be a matter of time before he unmasks her--and with a past so passionate, there's no telling what will happen when he does.