No Winner

by Daphne Clair

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I still have great fondness for Daphne Clair’s (aka Laurey Bright and Daphne de Jong) Mills & Boon romances.

The best of her works are wonderful studies of both the main couple’s character & motivations. It is amazing how much Daphne can pack into less than 190 pages. They often feature New Zealand settings – in this book’s case, both where I mostly grew up (Auckland) and where I live now. Both descriptions are on the generic side and I would wonder if our town’s former (very tiny) library would have had more than one librarian in the seventies. (We got a new, more modern library around 1990) But there is just enough of a flavour of both places and NZ (‘hanky’ for handkerchief, individual fruit pies – not so common now!) to delight a Kiwi.

But this novel is problematic – very problematic.

For some it will have more triggers than Roy Rogers and neither of the main characters are particularly likeable. Some of Guy’s past actions are inexcusable – and he definitely seems to be a slow learner. Eloise’s bitterness & fragility is more understandable. She does show a pleasanter character when she is dealing with anyone but Guy!

I did like the way Eloise’s parents were allowed to grow in character & her mother in particular was given some very strong motivation.

But overall I just don’t buy the happy ending (not a spoiler – all M&B have happy endings!) and in fact I find it very hard to think of this ending as happy.

I was all over the place with my rating, but finally settled on a 3. I will probably read more of Daphne’s books and as with other favourite authors, I want to leave enough room to give her better works a higher mark.

I think a skilled writer like Daphne was bored with some of the rigid restrictions of the Mills & Boon formula, and was trying to push the boundaries. Brave move, but I don’t think this was the right one.

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