The Revenge of Lord Eberlin by Julia London

Almost completely joyless. This will be my only Julia London book.

I selected this novel randomly from the romance spinner at the library, read a few pages, shrugged, and decided to give it a go. The Revenge of Lord Eberlin feels like a romance novel from the early days,  i.e. the 1970s/1980s. For the uninitiated, that means that the hero is a gorgeous, but cynical, brooding bastard who treats the heroine abominably, and the heroine is nonetheless magnetically attracted to him. His sole redeeming trait for most of the book is that he is nice to children. His only sympathetic quality, I think that was the author’s intent, is that he has panic attacks and since it is 1808 he has no idea what is going on and they terrify him. Julia London is a decent writer, sentences like “her heart was beating like the wings of a thousand birds” not withstanding, but this book was not engaging and, frankly, I’ve seen the revenge plot (the clue is in the title) done better by Julie Anne Long and Courtney Milan.

When Lord Eberlin, once Tobin Scott, was 13, his carpenter father was hanged for stealing jewels from the Ashwood estate. Central to the case was the testimony of Lord and Lady Ashwood’s adopted eight year old daughter, Lily Boudine. She saw Mr. Scott senior riding away from the manor on the night of the theft. Scott’s family was destroyed by the scandal: his mother and brother died in penury, and Tobin helped place his sister in service before he went to work on merchant ships. Fifteen years later, having purchased a title and clawed his way to wealth as an arms dealer (how revolting), Lord Eberlin has come back to destroy the Ashwood family, its finances, the estate, and anything else that isn’t nailed down. He’s really very grumpy. He has a charming friend named Mackenzie who might actually make for a fun book, but his appearance was disappointingly brief.

Lily and Tobin played together as children; more accurately, Lady Ashwood and Mr. Scott senior asked Tobin to occupy Lily while “work” was being done at the manor. Now Lady Ashwood in her own right, Lily is a smart, patient, and preternaturally mature and understanding young woman. She also has a young ward who appears now and then to be winsome and prove hero isn’t a complete ass. Tobin wants revenge, but he is drawn to Lily. She wants to protect her land and dependents, but is drawn to the foxy  rude man who turns her crank even as he takes her livelihood.

The proposal was charming, but this book was no fun; more importantly it was essentially humourless.  The tone was so serious that I started to wonder if the problem was me. Was I in a bad mood? Was I misreading the tone? Was I projecting emotions onto the story? Mostly, it was disappointment. I need to find a new romance writer’s catalogue to march through and with every new book I’m hoping I’ve found her. London used the word “visceral” on page three, so I had high hopes, but it was not to be.

The (Shameful) Tally 2013 – Ongoing

Things That Occur to Me While Reading Historical Romance Novels – Ongoing

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