I'm a big fan of Madeline Hunter and was excited to read the first book in her new series, "The Fairbourne Quartet." Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne.
Emma Fairbourne is in a quandary. Her father Maurice, proprietor of a London auction house to rival the famed Christie's, has recently died, and her brother Robert went missing two years ago while on a purchasing trip. She dearly wants to keep the house running and profitable to hand over to Robert when he returns - though she is the only one who thinks he's still alive - and she is quite capable of doing so, if only she weren't a woman. After her father's death, she learns that he had procured some auction items through smuggling and that he had sold a half interest in the auction house to Darius, the Earl of Southwaite, who only seeks to close down the premises and move on with his life.
To complicate matters, Darius is helping to set up a net of coastal watchers to ensnare smugglers. One of the French smugglers has contacted Emma to blackmail her into helping them, with the promise that the missing Robert will be returned to England.
Lots of conflict there between Darius and Emma - they are on opposite sides of the smuggling issue as well as the auction house. So why didn't all this juicy conflict translate into an enjoyable book?
To begin with, I never really felt drawn to either Darius or Emma. Emma seemed so nonchalant about the death of her father, a mere month ago, until late in the book. Her efforts to get an auction together are told in lengthy and tedious detail. Her distrust of Darius lasted way too long. Frankly, she wasn't a very interesting or entertaining character.
Darius wasn't quite as bad, and he turned into quite the romantic toward the end of the book. But until then, he was as much of a cipher as Emma was. Why he purchased a half interest in the auction house is never adequately explained, and why he fell for Emma remains a mystery to me.
I can clearly see the future heroes and heroines in this series, and some of them intrigued me. I will certainly read Hunter's next book and hope this is a rare misstep, but I was disappointed in The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, March 28, 2012