The 1990s must have been the winter of discontent for Craven as we are introduced to yet another character whose eyes remind our heroine of the bleakness of that season. Worse still is the parlous state of the hero’s finances. Not only is Marius Benedict sans a multinational empire, his inherence is a textile mill in Britain. Ouch. By current Harlequin hero benchmarks Marius Benedict is found seriously wanting.
Having established that our hero is unable to whisper italicised terms of endearment what can he offer our heroine? The opportunity to indulge in that other staple fantasy: the brother figure as lover. First cousin love in the twenty century is a bit awkward and step-sibling romance is very Brady but it must be kept within the family. Marius is the orphaned nephew of Lydie Hatton’s stepfather. Their love is thwarted by another’s deception.
And what of this deception? Like most Craven heroine’s Lydie is cursed with a narcissistic mother who will do all that is necessary to ensure her son Jon is anointed sole heir to the Benedict fortune. (In Craven-verse Jon is shorthand for feckless male which makes one wonder who the real-life counterpart is). She accuses Marius of grooming Lydie and of impregnating a local girl. For his alleged sins, Marius is exiled for the next five years.
On his return, the protagonists have an innate inability to communicate (otherwise a few more trees would have lived to see another day) and the heroine is terribly slow on the uptake but quite ready to defiantly ‘lift her chin.’ Naturally found in a compromised position they become engaged. For most people the following would raise alarm bells: Marius bent until his mouth was almost brushing her ear. He said quietly, ‘The door’s open if you want to run away again.’ His voice sank to a whisper. ‘But, unlike Wingate, I shall follow. You belong to me, Lydie.’ (p.87). Like we said slow.
The deception unravels and Jon’s transgressions exposed. Craven leaves the protagonists to seal their commitment to each other with a kiss and yes , the hero’s term of endearment for the heroine is ‘my sweet’.
ISBN 0 73350 478 7 Year 1996