10/10 on the chick-lit meter (strictly for girls)
NIGHT DRIFTER showcases a grinding, all-too-familiar portrayal of the near-virgin heroine Rosalind restoring the tortured, disillusioned libertine his soul. A true and tried formula and I just don't enjoy Saving-the-hero's-tortured-soul routines, and this one is especially bad because of the atrocious plotting and characters. We also have a woman "betraying" Lance when he's young consequently embittering him and of course once he shares this tormenting story with Rosalind, "Rosalind's heart [predictably] ached for him." The book further indulges in the insecurities of the ordinary-looking heroine's appearance when it isn't noting Lance's perfect Adonis looks or his pining introspection over Rosalind, or his tormented past. I've read all this before a million times except in much better contexts. Most of the time, I found Carroll's writing very crass. Twinkle in the eye = joking. Pointless, repetitive banter or introspection always seemed to last 4-5 pages too long.
Our heroine Rosalind apparently restores her hero libertine Lance's lost sense of honor, lost love and lost dreams. Susan Carroll writes from her libertine Lance's perspective specifically to accentuate Lance's maidenly pining for Rosalind. I wanted to shoot myself, I wanted to tear my eyes out -- literally. Although Cornwell's THE WINTER KING is melancholy, at least I had something to read alongside this book.
I'm not sure if I had the misfortune to pick up the one Susan Carroll novel containing the most trite characterizations or if her every novel features these romance characterization stereotypes. THE NIGHT DRIFTER drowns in stereotypical facades of its perfectly handsome, libertine hero falling for his ordinary-looking, near-virginal heroine. We're reminded of Lance's debauched, seducing talents or his handsome looks at almost every turn. Even after their first time, they discuss Lance's experiences with other women. I'm not sure who Carroll is trying to convince because there's no chemistry between the hero and heroine. All of these references to Lance's rakehell, libertine ways come across as some desperate plea to the reader since all evidence in the book paints Lance in one of the more girly lights I've ever seen in romance novels.
Susan Carroll goes out of her way to describe her hero's Lance perfectly handsome countenance from the heroine's perspective while portraying the heroine as "not beautiful" from the hero's perspective. Obviously, that doesn't detract our libertine hero from desiring Rosalind. Nothing remotely different here. Most romance authors are reluctant to deviate from these proven character formulas to cater to their female readership. The problem arises when the novel fails to rise above these characterization archetypes as THE NIGHT DRIFTER miserably fails to do so. THE NIGHT DRIFTER's Lance essays an abject character study on a girl's girlish hero with every sleeping and waking thought centered around the heroine.
Susan Carroll allows her heroine Rosalind to swoon over Lance's muscles constantly yet Carroll won't allow her hero Lance to fall prey to anything so shallow as Rosalind's breasts or butt. No, no, no our libertine Lance is enamored with Rosalind's eyes and hair of course! Rosalind is fairly ordinary looking so god forbid having Lance use the word "beautiful" to describe the woman he's attracted to. Nope, instead Lance says, "it's a face a man is destined to remember forever." Too funny. Too ridiculously girly.
Reading Carroll's Lance in THE NIGHT DRIFTER, I'm acutely aware that this book is exclusively for girls, that it's written by a female author. It's entirely possible I don't understand Carroll's Lance but quite frankly I don't want to.
After marriage, Rosalind continues to bestow her heart and her heart's desires to Lance's ghost she believes as Sir Lancelot during nights while growing to understand Lance's tortured soul during the day. Not exactly a betrayal since Rosalind tells Lance before the marriage that her heart will always belong to another (Sir Lancelot's ghost), but it was difficult to read, and to me, opposite of romantic. Rosalind is pretty dumb too. Rosalind reveals all of her heart's desires to the ghost of Sir Lancelot during the night (getting a puppy, visiting a locale, etc.), and she finds Lance fulfills all of her wishes during the day. Both the ghost and the real man bear an uncanny resemblance. The gallant ghost and the rakehell man also tend to revert to mannerisms and speech that overlap. Yet Rosalind suspects nothing at all, and attributes the peculiar parallels to coincidences. She continues to love the ghost and live a chaste marriage bereft of passion or chemistry with the man.
Have I mentioned the book lacks any interesting plotting yet? Well along with lacking any chemistry whatsoever, the book mostly consists of overlong conversations between Sir Lancelot the ghost and Rosalind. The goal being to transform the rakehell libertine into the gallant, noble Sir Lancelot since Lance is loathe to part Rosalind with her love for the ghost of Sir Lancelot. It was all very lame, and often, unreadable.
Along with drowning in horrible characterizations, there's also a fetish here to embroil the hero in a game of Jekyll and Hyde, making his profligate libertine self jealous of his own noble, honorable ghost. Rosalind falls for the noble ghost Sir Lancelot who's really Lance, and of course it serves as an idiotic plot device to have the rakish libertine reform his degenerate, scoundrel ways and strive to be the noble Sir Lancelot in actuality.
There's a side plot having to do with a family rivalry (St. Legers vs. Mortmain) and smuggling. It's all a hodge podge of nonsense.
Like other paranormal romances, THE NIGHT DRIFTER sinks in the requisite elements we often find in paranormal romances. That is, a horribly lazy soul mate plot device providing an excuse to bring our leading pair together, the tortured, brooding handsome hero, the hero recognizing the "need" to be with his heroine well before his heroine, the heroine very reluctant to reciprocate and resisting for the majority of the book, the hero pining incessantly (THE NIGHT DRIFTER showcases one of the more painfully "heroic" pining I've come across in romance novels), et cetera, et cetera, you get the point. THE NIGHT DRIFTER even blames the "passion" Lance & Rosalind share on the St. Leger legend. Lance notes, "it isn't your fault at all. If you are my destined bride, you are not going to be able to help yourself."