"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Days of Gold: A Edilean Novel by Jude Deveraux

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Summary: Handsome Scotsman Angus McTern helps young heiress Edilean Talbot escape the clutches of her greedy uncle and unfaithful fiancé and they both settle in colonial America.

Days of Gold follows Angus McTern, the titular laird of Clan McTern. Unfortunately, his keep is owned by the greedy Neville Lawler, a sporadic visitor to Keep McTern. This time, Lawler has brought his niece, the lovely Edilean Talbot, to Scotland. At midnight, when Edilean turns 18, she will be forced to marry a man of Lawler’s choosing and her fortune will return to Lawler, while the groom will get Edilean.

Despite their instant antagonism, Angus’ fierce protective nature extends to beautiful Edilean, and he is determined to help her, even hatching a plot with a few of his clansmen to prevent the forced wedding. Jude Deveraux is at her best writing about feisty women and stubborn men. Angus is a Scot, so naturally he’s stubborn. But he also likes to tease Edilean and once she relaxes, she enjoys Angus’ humor as well. Above all, Angus cannot bear to be embarrassed, and his pride later becomes a crucial plot device.

While Angus is working on his own rescue of Edilean, Edilean has secretly written to the man she loves, James Harcourt, and Harcourt has come up with a plan to rescue Edilean and her gold, marry her, and then both will start a new happy married life in America.

Somehow, Angus ends up delivering the wagon featuring a drugged Edilean and four chests of gold to the harbor and into the custody of Harcourt. But something tells Angus to stick around and he catches Harcourt bragging that he married an ugly daughter of a duke, but stole the pretty one’s fortune. Edilean is NOT the daughter of a duke, so Angus knows something is up.

So Angus and Edilean drug James and instead masquerade as husband and wife on their journey to America. They are sleeping in the same cabin and everyone treats them as married. Isn’t a long journey by ship in close quarters another classic romance novel device? Great when it’s done well.

Edilean starts to teach Angus to read, and flirts with him along the way. An honorable man, Angus rejects Edilean’s touches for her protection and they maintain a strained silence until they arrive in America.

This is where things go downhill. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity but it turns into a mish-mashed erratic plot.

They are met at the docks by Harriet, James Harcourt’s sister, who knew all along about James’ wicked plot to marry one woman and steal the other’s gold. She takes Edilean under her wing, serves as housekeeper to Edilean, and helps Edilean start a business.

When Angus leaves Edilean after one glorious night of love and sex, it really is for her own good. He is about to be arrested for kidnapping Edilean and couldn’t bear to see Edilean live with the misery of loving a convict. This is even though they don’t resolve the issue of Edilean’s contempt for uneducated men like Angus.

The first half of the book is good, and then we are rushed into a random climax of murder, ambush and coupling, tying up every single loose and/or unmarried character in the book. Not only are there silly and implausible scenes throughout the book (Edilean wakes up from a laudanum-induced sleep, talks and cries and then goes back to sleep; there’s a vicious girl-on-girl fight that leads to sex; and Angus is ambushed after a convoluted wild-goose chase and is rescued by his Scottish clan, who just show up in the middle of Frontier America), but worse, and more importantly, the characters changed personalities and don’t act like themselves. I wonder if this is two separate books combined to be one but not read for continuity.

This is the second book in the Edilean series. First was Lavender Morning. Then Days of Gold. Jude Deveraux was one of the first romance novelists I read so it may be that I just remember how much my thirteen-year-old self enjoyed her books when I pick them up. Whether she now has a young, fearful editor or she’s just getting lazy in her old age, this is her attempt to regain her legion of fans. I have a feeling this will be her best one of the three. Scarlet Nights will be published this fall.

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