Few romance authors have reached the prominence of Judith McNaught. If one could be knighted for contribution to the world of romantic literature, Ms. McNaught would now be called Dame Judith.
Ms. McNaught rose to fame with her book Whitney, My Love in 1985.
Set in Regency England, it tells the story of Whitney Stone, a young woman in love with her childhood crush. To get over her childhood obsession, her father sends her to Paris where she attracts the attention of fashionable society… and our hero, the Duke of Claymore, Clayton Westmoreland. Clayton then literally buys Whitney from her father but doesn’t tell her that they are already engaged. He had some elaborate scheme to woo his future wife. Unfortunately, she finds out about the deal Clayton made with her father, tries to escape from him, realizes she loves him, and tries to win him back… only to get practically raped in the process. And then the whole cycle re-starts: she escapes, she realizes she loves him, she tries to win him back, wins him back, then marries him. But that’s not happily ever after yet… Clayton gets it into his head that she could have been pregnant by somebody else before they got married, pushes her away, realizes his stupidity, then wins her back. And only then do we get our happy epilogue.
If it sounds convoluted, that’s because it is. But for some reason, this book makes young women swoon — at least those who are not too disturbed by the almost rape scene (alas, I belong to the disturbed group). For me, I loved this book because it introduced me to Nicholas Duville, the dashing French aristocrat who fell in love with Whitney while she was in Paris. I had high hopes Whitney would end up with Nicky, but my hopes were dashed. As a whole, the book is okay… not the best, but not the worst either. There are some scenes that are interesting but Whitney’s childishness and Clayton’s autocratic (slightly abusive) character have generally put me off.
The next Westmoreland to have his own book is Clayton’s ancestor, the first Duke of Claymore. Published in 1989, this book is called A Kingdom of Dreams.
Here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia:
Jennifer Merrick is the feisty daughter of a Scottish laird. Royce Westmoreland, the “Black Wolf”, is sent by the King of England to wage war against Scotland. When Royce’s brother, Stefan Westmoreland, kidnaps Jennifer and her stepsister, Brenna, and brings them to Royce’s camp, the lives of the two become intertwined. Royce and Jennifer must marry by order of the King of England and the King of Scotland after they consummate their keeper-prisoner relationship.
Forced to accept the marriage, Jennifer’s family try to make the marriage fail by intending to sent her to become a nun in a convent after the wedding reception. Royce beats the family plan by kidnapping her first and takes her to his home. The King of England orders the two families to settle their score in a tournament where Jennifer must choose which family her loyalty lies with.
I think this plot was even more confusing than Whitney, My Love. For one thing, it contained quite a lot of side stories. It featured the dynamics of Jennifer’s family, the war between England and Scotland, the love story of Stefan and Brenna… there might be more, but the rest escape me. At least there was no disturbing almost-rape, although considering Jennifer and Royce had a prisoner-captor relationship, the book just smacks of Stockholm syndrome.
Next came Until You in 1994. This book is about Stephen, Clayton Westmoreland’s younger brother, and his lady-love Sheridan the American (it rhymes!). This one involves a case of amnesia and mistaken identity. Although this book didn’t have the disturbing factors found in the previous two, I still didn’t love it so much. Maybe because Stephen wasn’t my kind of hero, all dark and brooding and carrying the world on his shoulders. I suppose he was made this way to show how much he has “matured” since Whitney, but I really missed the Stephen in the first book. THAT was the Stephen I liked and wanted to get to know better. To its credit though, Until You has a very entertaining heroine in Sherry. And Nicholas DuVille plays quite a prominent role in this one! (Oh Nicholas!)
The last published work in this series is the short story “Miracles” in A Holiday of Love, published in 1995. FINALLY, Nicholas DuVille got his own story. Here Nicholas meets Julianna, and through a ‘miracle’ they end up together – and yes, it would certainly take a miracle for Nicholas DuVille to fall in love with someone like Julianna. Can you tell I am bitter? I loved this hero most of all, and all he got was a short little story with a bland heroine! This, for me, is the biggest injustice in the romance novel genre. Justice for Nicholas, I say!
Tired of the Westmorelands and their friends yet? Well too bad because we’re about to be treated to ANOTHER story 😀 Set in modern times, Someone Like You will be released on 27 May 2014. Featuring Clayton Westmoreland’s descendant, Clay Westmoreland, and Holly Braxton (a character from another McNaught book, Every Breath You Take), this book promises to spin a complex story on second chances. So will I read it? Yep. Don’t ask why because I don’t know the answer myself.
So there you have it. Westmorelands and their brides from generations past and present. For all my snarkiness, I did actually enjoy some of these books. Don’t judge me 😉