Desperately Seeking Suzanna by Elizabeth Michels
March 4, 2014, Sourcebooks Casablanca (Historical Romance)*
My Rating: Liked the place, but the food was bad (2/5)
Desperately Seeking Suzanna is the second in Michels’s Tricks of the Ton series. I have not read the first book; however, Suzanna can be read as a standalone for the most part.
Sue Green is living in the shadow of her beautiful younger sister. Sue is unassuming and not beautiful in the conventional way. Instead she’s a painter, and a painter of some note as the hero collects her art. Because of her meddling younger cousins, Sue is coerced into attending a masquerade ball, and this gives Sue the freedom to adopt a new persona, Suzanna. Suzanna is everything that Sue is not: confident, beautiful, compelling, arresting. The hero, Holden Ellis, Lord Steelings, is immediately drawn to Suzanna and after she mysteriously disappears, he vows to find her. The problem is he has no idea that Sue is actually Suzanna, which irks Sue to no end. And, I’ll be honest, this bothered me as well. I really can’t imagine that these Sue and Suzanna are so visibly different that Holden cannot tell the difference. But if it worked for Superman, I suppose that it could work for Sue. Personally, I found it hard to suspend my belief enough for this plot device to work.
Holden Ellis (our hero) has just returned to society from abroad, and while Suzanna throws him for a loop, he’s got bigger problems on the horizon. Most importantly is his institutionalized mother who has escaped and taken up residence at Holden’s home. But does Holden take care of this situation despite the fact that his mother clearly needs help? No. Instead he enables a situation where someone who is known to be violent, to have the ability to act out more violence. This set up did bother me because it was very clear that Holden was completely aware of his mother’s history, and he’s quite terrified for Sue when they finally meet. But again, does he do anything about this potentially dangerous situation? No. And guess who pays the price? That’s right. Sue.
There was some dubious reasoning in Desperately Seeking Suzanna, and it did put me off. I couldn’t get past Holden’s choices; they just didn’t make sense to me. Throw in the fact that it takes him forever to recognize that Sue and Suzanna were one in the same, and I was left struggling to get through the book. But, what really put the final nail in the coffin were Holden’s actions once he finally realizes that Sue and Suzanna are the same person. Naturally, he offers her a position as his mistress. How tempting… Thank goodness, Sue had enough sense to refuse this outrageous offer. I didn’t even really understand Holden’s reasoning for avoiding marriage, and when it was explained, it felt a little too late for it to make an impact. From there, I found the ending to be very rushed and I’m just not sold on the happily ever after between Holden and Sue.
Overall, I wasn’t in love with this book and I didn’t find it overly romantic. Perhaps I would have felt differently had the relationship progressed a little more quickly, but it simply didn’t grab me from the get-go. That said, I did enjoy the writing style and I liked the character of Sue (she definitely carried the book, in my opinion), who was quite witty in comparison to Holden. In the end, it was the plot that I didn’t like, which means that I will be coming back to the author, as I’m not ready to discount a series based on one book. There was some great lines in this one, so I’d like to see what else the author can do.
*Review copy provided by the publisher.
If you, unlike me, like the “disguise” element, I recommend Sophie Jordan’s One Night With You. I liked this one because the unlike Sue, Jane doesn’t stay disguised for too long and the big reveal is used to really propel the plot.
Continuing on with the disguise theme, I’m also going to recommend Sally MacKenzie’s Saving Lord Jack. Frances, the heroine, masquerades as a boy in order to get to London, when our hero, Jack, figures things out, hijinks ensure. This one was a surprise read for me, and I loved the humour in it.
Lastly, I’m also going to recommend Maya Rodale’s Wallflower Gone Wild. It’s funny and features an unconventional hero and heroine. There is one small element of disguise with the hero, but it certainly doesn’t overshadow the plot, which I really appreciate.