Saturday, December 20, 2014

Code of Honor (Andrea Pickens)

Code of Honor
(The Intrepid Heroines series, Book 1)
Andrea Pickens
ePublishing Works!
Fiction, Historic Fiction/Romance
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Among the well-heeled ton of England, Alexandra Chilton's prospects for marriage are slim... and she couldn't care less. She'd rather pursue her interests in botanical illustration, taking after her late, plant-obsessed father. If only her poor brother Justin didn't suffer the family's lack of means as well - a lack that may cost him the hand of his true love in marriage, as the woman's father has higher ambitions - she would be happy as she is. She wouldn't have even come to London for the season if Justin hadn't been determined to make one last, desperate bid for his lady's hand. If she hadn't been drug to another interminable ball, Alex never would've met the Earl of Branford... and she never would've been tempted out of her shell.
With rumors of his war record and affairs swarming thick as flies about him, Sebastian Branford buries himself in liquor and illicit liaisons, sleeping his way through half the manors in London. When another noble declares that even he would never be able to get under the Lady Chilton's skirts, Branford takes the bet - and quickly comes to regret it. For Alexandra Chilton is nothing like the fluttery society ladies he's used to. Clever and outspoken, she proves to be the first woman to see him as the man he is... and the first woman to inadvertently wake his long-dormant heart.
As sparks fly and rumors swirl, danger stalks ever closer to the Chilton line. Someone seems determined to be rid of Justin and Alex, and the reason why may be hidden in their father's last, cryptic note to his children.

REVIEW: I know one shouldn't expect too much originality in a romance novel, but this one hit too many dated cliches for me to overlook. Despite the series title and the initial promise, Alex proves to be yet another helpless, impetuous innocent in need of Branford's more worldly experience and protection. She's also the one to push him away on a misunderstanding, not to mention wandering blindly into danger not once but twice. Branford himself, despite his inner pain and sordid past, is every inch a lord and gentleman, while the brother Justin is an immature (if well-meaning) hothead who enables more than one story-extending misunderstanding. A convoluted plot against the Chiltons ventures into melodrama, as a pair of stock evildoers smirk and scheme, though just why is deliberately (and annoyingly) hidden by the author until the last minute; the revelation prompts less of a gasp than a groan. As for the romance, it's mostly couched in smoldering looks and lonely longing; physical interaction is minimal, save a few kisses and dances. The plot itself moves decently, even if it relies on misunderstandings and conveniences, though the ending feels trite. It's not a terrible tale, but I've read better.

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