The Perfect Wife by Victoria Alexander
Sabrina Winfield is the well-behaved, proper widow of Jack, the former Lord Stanford and the two of them had developed quite the reputation for recklessness until he dies while participating in said recklessness. When he died he left her no money and little choice but to turn to smuggling to earn enough money to support her daughter, Belinda. However she gives up her exciting life to ensure that no hint of scandal attaches itself to her daughter. Nicholas, Earl of Wyldewood, is the wealthy widowered father of Eric who quickly falls for Belinda. Nicholas had formerly worked for the crown attempting to capture smugglers but one mysterious lady smuggler had successfully escaped his clutches and haunted him for years.
Now perilously low on funds and with her daughter's marriage to Eric ensured, Sabrina decides to head off to Egypt in search of Napoleon's lost gold. She is possession of a map to said gold because her husband won it in a card came. Nicholas takes it into his head that Sabrina would be a Perfect Wife for him and decides to follow her and then Belinda and Eric, accompanied by Nicholas's spinster sister Wynne, conclude that Nicholas has kidnapped Sabrina and give chase. Eventually Nicholas, Sabrina, Eric, Wynne, and Belinda all join forces with Sabrina's old business partner Captain Jack in search of the gold. The gang is pursued by three of Sabrina's spurned suitors and much funny business in Egypt ensues.
Did you notice how there was almost no mention of anything romantic in my summary? Well, that is because there was very little romance in the book. There was so much plot, much of it far fetched, uninteresting, and poorly written, that it seems there was no space to write any romantic interludes between the two leads. I also cannot understand why either of these characters would be remotely interested in each other. Nicholas is boring and completely misjudges Sabrina, and it is his musjudgement of her character that causes him to fall in love with her. Belinda is the most horrid simpering character I have ever read and all I could think about whenever she was in scene was how badly I wanted Sabrina to slap her. How could I ever like a character who could allow her daughter to turn out so... awful.
There is a surprise twist at the ending that, despite poorly done foreshadowing, was still a complete shock to me and it's always interesting when a writer can do that. The experienced, worldly Captain Jack and the bluestocking Wynne develop a tendre for each other and that is an interesting side plot, although their are enough side plots in this novel to make an entirely different book. What sex there was was not at all interesting and there was far from enough, which was a shame as it could have been the glue that held this stretched thin book together. There was a nice, albeit much too short lived, bout of angst when the issue of Sabrina's past was brought up, but it was far too late to save this book.
I told myself I would reserve 1 star ratings for books I could not get through, but despite getting through this book I have to give it 1 star. I did not find any of the characters, even periphery characters likable, and the two protagonists were probably the worst of the bunch. I hated the plot, the sex, and the writing.