Maria's Reviews > Sweet Enemy

Sweet Enemy by Heather Snow
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Feb 24, 12

bookshelves: romance, historical-romance
Recommended for: historical romance, mystery romance
Read from February 22 to 24, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1

This rating is really a 3.5, and I debated for some time if it should be a little higher because the story was definitely interesting. Regency romance has become increasingly homogeneous in recent years, and it has become difficult to find stories that feel original. This is what attracted me to this novel: The mystery at the heart of the novel is based in true events and is solved in a way that makes sense for 1817.

Liliana Claremont has just discovered that her father's murder a decade prior wasn't a random act at the hands of thugs, but she doesn't know why someone would have wanted to kill her chemist father. After her house is broken into she finds a stack of letters that connects her father to the Earl of Stratford, but the content is in code, and without the other half of the conversation there is no way she can get the answers she desperately needs.

Geoffrey Wentworth is the current Earl Of Stratford, a second son that was off serving with Wellington when his father died a decade prior, and has recently come into the title on his brother's death. His mother has decided that it is well past the time he marries and produces his heir and spare, and she maneuvers him into coming home for a house party she has planned in his name as a way to parade a dozen eligible young women before him. Unwilling to be made to look the fool, he reluctantly plays along in order to further his political aspirations. Liliana discovers the house party and arranges to attend with her cousin; she doesn't know if the current earl was involved with her father's murder, and she only has a vague sense of a plan, but she's determined to search until she gets some answers.

As I read the book I found myself thinking that I've been ruined by reading Austen a few too many times...Liliana traipses all over the countryside in boy's clothing, which is convenient for solving mysteries, but completely out of character for the period, even for this forward-thinking chemistry-loving woman. Geoffrey never bats a lash at her conduct, except to lust over how her rear end looks in trousers, and it just felt a little too modern in sensibility (Austen reference intended).

And speaking of other things that possibly stretch credulity, Geoffrey is a shining Disney knight of a good guy: His twelve years in the war have left him with a profound respect for the common man, and he wants to champion the poor as his life's work. Although he is resigned to marrying for political advantage, the more he gets to know Liliana the more he thinks everything she does is magic. He wants to support her in being forward-thinking and progressive, which he thinks is way cool (pardon the slang, but it fits). Then, of course, he discovers that she's been keeping secrets, which plunges his poor, shattered heart to the depths of despair even though he understands why she has to keep so much to herself. Although this drama works in the story, this plot twist feels a little contrived and at odds with itself: Either Geoffrey respects her intelligence and desire/ability to problem solve, or he doesn't. His reaction feels a little extreme, and I wanted to yell at him to snap out of it!

Overall, though, this was an impressive debut from Heather Snow, and has earned her a place on my 'romance novelists to look for' list. The story she has written doesn't feel like a retread and, taking into consideration that there are some anachronisms, the narrative moves at a natural pace that has these characters falling in love over weeks in the somewhat formal setting of a house party rather than jumping into bed on their first date. I appreciate the deliberate pace of the book, and I am left feeling as though this couple has legitimately worked things out with each other. I am already looking forward to the next story in this new series, Sweet Deception, out August 2012.
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