Monday, 17 February 2014

Review: When Harry Met Molly

Kieran Kramer
St. Martin’s Paperbacks (2010)
Historical romance

He’s always been a player. 
Dashing Lord Harry Traemore is perfectly content to live out his days in the pursuit of pleasure. But when he’s named by the Prince Regent as one of society’s “Impossible Bachelors,” Harry is drafted into a ribald romantic wager. The rules of engagement are scandalously simple: The bachelor whose mistress wins the title of “Most Delectable Companion” gets to remain unmarried. Harry is utterly unconcerned about his status…until his latest lightskirt abandons him. 
Who will win this game of love? 
Enter Lady Molly Fairbanks. Harry’s childhood friend—actually, “foe” is more like it—is the most unlikely companion of all. She’s attractive but hot-headed, and in no mood for games. Besides, what could the self-indulgent Harry possibly know about what makes a woman delectable? It’s time for Molly to teach him a lesson once and for all…but will it lead to “happily ever after?”

The Tag Line:

Boy, I wish there were one. But this is the case of a book title being it’s own very shady tag line. Almost like ‘when titles attack!’ It’s so horrendous that it’s almost retro-good. A fine line, a fine line indeed.

The Heroine:

Molly would be a perfect Disney heroine. Seriously, she teaches the whores (more on that later) the importance of self-respect and friendship and befriends each of the Impossible Bachelors. She also appears to have magical make up skills as face powder, blush and some kohl kept her identity a secret for the entire party. It’s almost as lame as Clark Kent’s glasses but at least Molly had the power of a cleavage misdirect.

Molly’s a dolt. She attempts to elope with a guy she’s not overly fond of so she can escape her home. When he deserts her, she agrees to play Harry’s tart in a competition so she will eventually have a ride home (to the place she was escaping in the first place). Like I said, she’s a dolt.

The Hero:

Harry is a bit of a cad. Years ago he kissed his brother’s fiancee (Molly’s sister) because he has daddy issues and the resulting mess had him sent off to Waterloo. Of course war taught him to be a man and all that jazz but his dislike for Molly has held true. It’s difficult to suspend the need to conk Harry on the head and tell him to get over it. He’s the spare yada yada yada, move on boy!

The Evil….Ugly Bachelor

Of course the one unattractive bachelor had to be the evil one. He also happens to be grabby in both the violent and unwanted sexual advance way. Sir Richard is one twirling moustache away from being a cardboard cutout with a mechanised function. Not only is he grabby but he’s plotting the downfall of Harry for some “mysterious” reason that gets wrapped up in a convenient way that deserves a red ribbon of finality.

The Steam:

Once you can get past Harry forcing Molly to look and act (kissing closet game, not as lame as it sounds …but kinda) like a mistress, there is definite sparkage there. The scenes that edge them towards and into more intimate interplay also work on an emotional level. This wouldn’t be successful if the characters weren’t as likeable as they are. For all their faults, and boy are they self-aware, they are two genuinely well-rounded characters that you are rooting for. Too bad the scenario that forces them together is so preposterous (and yet very amusing).

The Sass:

It comes from a place of hurt and anger so it shoots from the hip. The interplay is sharp and funny, preposterous and knowing. These two have years of history and know that regardless of how things work out in their dastardly scheme, they will continue to be in each other’s sphere. Familial bonds tether them to each other and yet their feelings for each other are anything but. It’s like two squabbling nine-year olds tearing each other to shreds, just age them up and add sexual tension. It works.

I could have done without each of the other mistresses being ridiculous cliches. It was so heavy handed, to the point of farce, that they could have had Disney-influence dwarf names (Duncey, Ragey, Meeky and Wounded-y) to further solidify Molly as a blue bird calling dolt.

Despite all that, When Harry Met Molly is a fun read with a clipping pace and lovely characterisation. I am hanging out for the next title in the Impossible Bachelor series “Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right”, though I could do without the way off base, extremely inaccurate depiction of Prince of Wales (aka Prinny). Definitely a title to get your claws into!

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