Let me go on record to say that when I first read Almost Innocent by Jane Feather years ago, I was sympathetic towards the plight of the two main characters, Guy and Magdalen, and was in fact moved by their passionate love for each other.
However, when I picked it up again to read recently (go here for the synopsis, for I shall not summarize it), I wasn’t too enamoured of the way they deluded themselves into carrying on an adulterous relationship. Granted, Guy had believed Magdalen’s young hubby, Edmund, to be dead by mishap but not our dear heroine. She’s so strong willed and self-serving when it comes to preserving their relationship that to me, she became almost as spoiled and ruthless as her royal father.
Somewhere along the line, I started to get annoyed at her insensitive treatment of Edmund. Granted, few women in those medieval days have the freedom and power to choose whom they marry, and marrying for love is a dream few can afford. She has a husband who loved her so much he died rescuing her and thus paving the way free for her to be with her lover and the father of her daughter. It was a bittersweet ending, but I thought it would have been more poignant if she’d lost Guy but healed under Edmund’s patient and gentle loving. Funny how reading the same book sometimes yield different results … it has to be me. The story didn’t change. I did, about the way I view and feel about things. Maybe that’s why this book has suddenly lost its appeal.
Don’t get me wrong, Jane Feather is a powerful writer, but it’s really my attitude towards the story arc that’s making me feel less favourably towards the pair of lovers.
Countess Confidential by Barbara Dawson Smith, however, was a breeze to read. It has an eccentric aristocrat, Simon Croft (no relations to Lara), who likes to play at being a who-dunnit expert, but this time round made the wrong judgment call which landed an innocent in jail. In marches the alleged thief’s daughter, Claire, who’s really of pedigreed birth, who disguised herself as a dowdy companion to her cousin in an attempt to uncover evidence that will free her father. Of course, sparks flew while each tried not to get in each other’s way while attempting to hide their secrets from each other.
The tension and chemistry between them makes good reading, as does Smith’s prose and plot character development. I enjoyed this book much more than Almost Innocent, which I almost didn’t finish this time round. Well, we can’t win every round can we? So, yes, the Jane Feather’s going to go back to the UBS while the Smith stays. Hmmm … wonder how I’d feel about that book five years later.