Loving A Lost Lord
Series: The Lost Lords, Book 1
Author: Mary Jo Putney
Release Date: June 30, 2009
List Price: $6.99
Read: July 1-2, 2009
Weak compared to Putney's other work - started off promising, but definitely didn't follow through (2.5-3 stars)
Loving A Lost Lord is the first in Mary Jo Putney's new series, "The Lost Lords." Ever since rereading her novel The Wild Child my interest in her has been renewed and I have been on the lookout for more of her books, since I enjoyed that one so much. Unfortunately, this one was a complete disappointment. I don't remember all of the plots of the other Putney books I have read, but I do remember that her stories, as well as her characters, are usually intense and lively - two adjectives which definitely do not apply here.
SUMMARY (from back cover)
In the first of a dazzling series, Mary Jo Putney introduces the Lost Lords - maverick childhood friends with a flair for defying convention. Each is about to discover the woman who is his perfect match - but perfection doesn't come easily, even for the noble Duke of Ashton ...
Battered by the sea, Adam remembers nothing of his past, his ducal rank, nor of the shipwreck that almost claimed his life. However, he's delighted to hear that the golden-haired vision tending his wounds is his wife. Mariah's name and face may not be familiar, but her touch, her warmth, feel deliciously right ...
When Mariah Clarke prayed for a way to deter a bullying suitor, she didn't imagine she'd find the answer washed ashore on a desolate beach. Convincing Adam that he is her husband is surprisingly easy. Resisting the temptation to act his wife, in every way, will prove anything but. And now a passion begun in fantasy has become dangerously real - and completely irresistible ...
Miss Mariah Clarke (25) has finally found a home to settle down in - never mind that her father, a professional gambler, only won the house through a game of cards. Hartley Manor had obviously not been valued as it should have been if George Burke could so easily risk his estate in a game of cards, but all of that is going to change now and Mariah is determined to make the place into a home. She is tired of she and her father's constant traveling, going from one country house party to the next, with return stops in London every now and then ... she wants to put down some roots and Hartley Manor seems the perfect type of place for that.
Disaster strikes, however, when only a few weeks after moving in her father leaves for London to attempt reconciliation with his estranged family and shortly after is killed by highwaymen. Mariah is distraught and now finds herself alone in the world; she can only be thankful that she now at least has a place to call home. The man who informs her of her father's death is none other than George Burke, who begins to visit her daily and press his suit - he obviously lusts after her and wants to regain the estate he lost. To put him off, Mariah informs him that it is quite impossible for them to marry, seeing as she already has a husband! Now, all Mariah has to do is figure out what to do next, because obviously no such man exists ...
Adam Darshan Lawford, seventh Duke of Ashton, (early 30s) is an unusual peer of the realm. He is half-Indian and half-English and has led a difficult life, losing both his parents at a young age in India and being brought back forcefully to England, where he has often had to deal with intolerance from people who view him as "part heathen." He loves to work on mechanical things and inventions, however his most recent project has very nearly killed him - and left him with absolutely no memory of who or where he is. When we meet Adam, he has spent a couple of days clinging to life (and driftwood) after surviving his steamboat's explosion. Mariah discovers him near the shore and brings him back to her home to nurse him. When he asks her who she is and where they are, he's surprised to learn that the beautiful young woman who saved his life is none other than the wife he can't remember.
Mariah feels guilt over telling Adam that he is her husband, but right now she really needs one and in telling him the little (or really rather big) lie, she's given him at least one connection, which seems to reassure him since he can't remember any others. She begins to develop true feelings for him and finds herself very conflicted, while Adam, believing she is his wife, returns her affection and thinks himself lucky to be married to her. She finally reveals the truth after they make love (very short scene and not very satisfying); he's realized she was a virgin and although he still doesn't doubt what she's told him about them being married, Mariah feels she can't continue lying. Oddly enough, Putney doesn't make this a real hurdle in their relationship - it is mentioned that he finds it harder to trust her, maybe can't trust her at all, but really Adam gets over it pretty quickly and never holds a grudge or gets angry with her.
Meanwhile, three of Adam's closest friends - who are really more like brothers (and I'm guessing will be the heroes of the other books in the series) - have been searching for him. They don't want to believe that he is dead and so have decided to make inquiries and try to at least find his body, so that any doubts can be put to rest and their friend can have a proper burial. During their efforts they discover that the steamboat explosion was not an accident, but rather done on purpose. Of course as luck would have it, they meet up at the end of the inquiries in the little town of Hartley and just by chance stumble upon Adam. Even though they tell Adam who he is and try to trigger his memory, nothing is working so they decide that maybe if he is in London and in familiar surroundings it will all come back to him. Off they set for London, where they will run into more obstacles, uncover several surprises, meet people from both Mariah's family and Adam's who are supposed to be dead, and finally end up together. (I can't even use an exclamation point there, since there one gains little to no satisfaction from this book, even from the HEA).
CRITICISM (may include slight spoilers)
Most of my criticism has to do with Mariah and Adam - them as characters, their romantic relationship, and the sexual tension (or lack thereof) between them. The second half of the book really caused problems for me story-wise, though, and Putney throws in so many twists, turns, and surprises that one is left reeling and feeling slightly exhausted and incredulous.
*Poor Romantic Relationship* The period during which Adam doesn't know who he is and is living with Mariah as her husband only takes up the first half of the book, after which his friends show up and his identity is revealed. In my opinion, this is a big mistake because Putney gives the main characters little time to truly get to know one another and fall in love. I've read several other books where one of the main characters - usually the hero - either has amnesia and stays with the heroine to recuperate or pretends that he has amnesia and goes along with the heroine who tells him they're married (I love how in the HR world, both of these things are not rare, but rather common occurrences, lol). In all of these books, that period takes up most of the story and it is only at the end that everything starts to unravel and come together; this makes the relationships believable and gives us a lot of time to see interactions between the pair and watch their relationship develop - here, we don't get that and the romance definitely suffers as a result.
Neither of the main characters displays any strong emotions or passions and although there are times when it seems Putney is trying to write as if they do, the effect is unsuccessful. Once they arrive in London, their entire relationship falls apart IMO and the reader is left utterly confused, with the sense that Putney is confused herself. They have several obstacles to being together, however we're given so many and none are really focused on or pointed to clearly: is it because Moriah is bothered by their difference in station? is she not bothered by this? is Adam angry that she lied or does he not care anymore? Then it's revealed that he's betrothed to his cousin, so bye-bye to him and Moriah since obviously an honorable man can't end an engagement.
*Not Much Chemistry* There was hardly any chemistry between Adam and Mariah. It wasn't completely non-existent, but in my opinion we're given more a promise than anything substantial, with mere glimpses of something stronger - but that something never actually shows itself. There are a few kissing scenes, though hardly noticeable, and two love scenes that aren't really anything to write home about. This surprised me since the Putney books I have read tend to be very highly charged in this sense and it's usually an area in which she excels.
*Weak Hero and Heroine* A bad sign is when one likes supporting characters more than the main ones, and frankly I found Adam's friends (and Lady Agnes) more interesting and entertaining than either he or Mariah. Neither of them was very well-developed nor at all compelling. In the first half of the book Mariah has definite promise and at the beginning I actually liked her, but Adam was extremely bland; in the second half, the situation reverses and I found Mariah boring and placid, whereas Adam's character developed and became quite interesting.
I was also extremely annoyed that Moriah even considered George Burke's offer at the beginning or the fact that she thought she might weaken and eventually accept him just to make her life simpler - have a backbone: don't make up a fake husband, just continue to say no! I was also bothered that she thinks maybe she'll settle on the vicar once she returns from London and leaves Adam to his fiancée - either she doesn't love Adam that much or she's planning on being very unfair to the vicar by marrying him when she loves another.
*Too Many Plot Twists* The first half of the book in which Adam has amnesia and he's at Hartley Manor with Mariah was not horrible and I was actually biding my time, waiting for things to pick up. Be careful what you wish for! While that part of the book is languid and slow-paced, once the cast goes to London *everything* changes and Putney goes a little crazy. I don't know if she realized the book was uninteresting and so decided to put in as many plot twists and surprises as possible, but she basically does everything but throw the kitchen sink at us. It's like she wanted to include the messy and complicated drama of [...]but since she has only 300 pages instead of 1000+, she crams it all into the last 150 upon realizing the story has to start winding down.
What am I talking about exactly? Adam still doesn't remember anything, then starts to remember things, then it all comes flooding back to him; assassination attempts continue; Moriah gets in touch with her father's lawyer who hadn't answered any of her letters and it turns out maybe her father isn't dead; Adam's own relative comes back from the dead and he reunites with his mother (long thought dead), her second English husband, his sister (whose existence he was unaware of), and his two half-siblings; we discover that in fact George Burke was pulling all these manipulations and Moriah's father is alive; then, not only is he alive, but we're given his wife and Moriah's twin sister (turns out her "imaginary friend" Sarah - which had been weird in and of itself - isn't imaginary at all but her younger-by-five-minutes twin); the explanation for the family's split doesn't really make sense and isn't fully given and even weirder is Moriah, who just laughs at this and finds the fact that her father hid this from her amusing (ummm, excuse me?). I mean, I could go on, but you get the picture.
Frankly, I grew to not even really care what was going to happen between Moriah and Adam and found all of the twists and turns utterly ridiculous. I can't even say "read this book, but don't buy it just get it from the library." I have really enjoyed some of Putney's work, but they don't include this one and I can only hope that the other books in the series are stronger. Pick up The Wild Child instead and definitely skip this latest romance by Putney.