This one is really exciting! It’s my VERY FIRST romance novel audiobook! See, I had this long drive to do by myself and I’m kind of a wuss about driving long distances alone because I either start to fall asleep or I get really antsy or I just get BORED and I end up stopping, like, once an hour, to the point that even the dog is like, Jesus H…again?! So usually I just make a CD or ten CDs or load up the ol’ MP3 machine with music that I can sing along to at the top of my lungs, but ugh…that’s a LONG time to be singing. And then I thought, audiobook! And then I thought, ROMANCE NOVEL AUDIOBOOK!!!!! And that’s how this all came to be.
OK, the hero, Sebastian (who for the entirety of the story I picture as a sweet, slightly goofy yellow lab because that’s MY Sebastian – who’s a good dog??? Who’s a good doggy??? You are! Yes you are!), sleeps with his best friend’s wife and then shoots his best friend in a duel. With friends like these…! No, but really, it wasn’t his fault! He didn’t mean to! But he did. So his dad is like, get the eff out of England!, and he runs away to continental Europe. Years pass – ten, eleven, something like that, enough for our flirty young lad to grow into a tortured, dark adult – and he’s a mercenary for hire and this rich Austrian guy is like, you WILL help me find my whore wife who ran off to England!, and then he throws ol’ Seb in the dungeon. And Sebastian is like, I WILL NOT!, and then he does some action hero shit and escapes and runs back to France with his faithful manservant and some orphan kid that he doesn’t even like (I’m serious, Sebastian is such an asshole). Then Maggie shows up and she’s like, I want to hire you to find the estranged son of my neighbor so he can uncover what the hell is going on with all the weird accidents his dad keeps having! And then she’s like, OMG you ARE the estranged son of my neighbor! And of course he doesn’t want to go but he does because she agrees to pay him loads of money and honor is important to a scoundrel, blah blah blah, whatever, they go to England. They go to HER house and stay awhile and come up with this weird plan to pretend to be married to explain why Sebastian is back and hanging around with her but she’s not 100% on board and then one of her beaus shows up and he’s all googly over her so Sebasshole stomps over and is like, unhand my wife or I will shoot you in a duel WHICH I HAVE ALREADY DONE ONCE!!!! Honestly. So rude. Then they go to Seb’s house, or Seb’s old house, or Seb’s family’s house, or whatever, and his dad almost immediately has a Suspicious Accident so they have to stay till he recovers because that’s just what one DOES.
Oh! I forgot to mention! Seb’s brother is now married to the lady who Seb screwed six ways from Sunday and then widowed. That is, Seb’s best friend’s wife! Who would have still been Seb’s best friend’s wife if Seb hadn’t killed his best friend! Oh, and also, Seb’s best friend was engaged to Maggie’s sister before he married the whorey whore Juliet who probably controlled all the circumstances surrounding the seduction/duel JUST to get her husband killed and Seb exiled because THAT’S WHAT WOMEN DO. Anyway, Maggie’s sister ran away to marry some poor dude a few years after Seb’s best friend was shot and killed (by Seb) and she died in childbirth. Aw. BUT Seb feels that the circumstances are suspicious and he’s not convinced that she ran away to get married out of grief at all! I hope this storyline ends with Maggie’s sister not dying in childbirth, actually living happily somewhere far away from the place where best friends shoot each other. Anyhow. Grandma is happy to see Seb, little bro is happier to see Seb than he would be to get poked in the eye with a blunt stick but not by much, Dad is unconscious, Juliet is off shopping and spending money (women! am I right?!), Seb is tortured and broody and Maggie is so damn hot no one can stand it. Damn, girl! Douse that shit!
Blah blah blah, stuff happens, blah blah, Juliet comes back and is NOT much pleased to see Sebastian, blah blah, SEBASTIAN AND MAGGIE TOTALLY DO IT (way to commit to that lie!), more stuff happens, the brothers reconcile kind of, Dad seems to be recovering, blah blah, etc. And then Sebastian corners Juliet in a room and DEMANDS that she tell him EVERYTHING and she’s like, GOD! FINE! I seduced you to punish my husband/your best friend and I thought you would just ding him with a bullet not SHOOT HIM IN THE CHEST like an asshole! So! Great! I’M the bad guy here but YOU are also the bad guy! And Seb is like, ugh you suck, and Seb’s brother overhears and he’s like, brb I have to go file for divorce. Only NOT REALLY because his wife has some kind of dirt on him and will spill the beans if he leaves her, which I feel like…one son already shot and killed somebody, how bad can this dirt be? You know? Also, I’m pretty sure Juliet is the Austrian guy’s runaway wife that Sebastian refused to go look for, so don’t worry – she’ll definitely get her comeuppance. And by comeuppance of course I mean she’ll be dragged back to Austria to live with an evil guy who hates her and will probably abuse her for the rest of her life. AS SHE DESERVES, right?!
AND THEN SEBASTIAN AND MAGGIE TOTALLY DO IT AGAIN! IN THE BATHTUB! Haha, but first they have a great conversation where ol’ Sebby is like, you can’t say no to me! If you did I would just emotionally manipulate you into saying yes! Haha, that guy. Haha! Ha! Ha! The next morning Seb pulls my absolutely LEAST FAVORITE romance hero move and picks a fight with Maggie and says mean things for her own good because he has to put distance between them because he’s going to leave soon. Seriously? Guys who do this? They are assholes. They are horrible, no good, very bad men. They are NOT noble! They are NOT honorable! They are NOT worthy of the heroine’s love! They are NOT helping! THEY ARE THE WORST. THE!!!! WORST!!!!!!!!! Ugh, Maggie, you deserve so much better! Sebastian, you deserve a punch in the face!
And, oh, by the way, Seb’s papa says he has a bum leg and that’s why he’s been having all those accidents. It’s NOT because Juliet and/or Seb’s brother are trying to kill him! You thought so, didn’t you? You totally did! We all did. Johanna Lindsay, you cheeky scamp!
Seb’s daddy-o makes him promise not to tell Maggie about his old man injury, which annoys Maggie but I have a feeling if this thing lasts she had better get used to half-truths and lies and withheld information. I’m just saying. Then he’s like, well I guess I’ll be leaving before I kill somebody (and here’s another thing I CANNOT STAND about this man, he’s constantly going on about how he might kill somebody or how such-and-such might drive him to kill them or Maggie will notice how he’s so angry he looks like he might kill somebody and I’m like HOLY CRAP MAYBE YOU FORGOT BUT HE DID KILL SOMEBODY ALREADY!!!!!, so I don’t know if this is supposed to make him look super duper totally manly because violent = manly OF COURSE or if it’s some kind of self-deprecating thing where he’s like “oh jeez, watch out, I’m a time bomb, I’m a killer,” because he hates himself for killing his friend, but honestly I think that interpretation is too generous because he’s often saying/thinking it when he has his hands wrapped around a person’s throat and I don’t even care because OH MY GOD I am so done with it…SEBASTIAN YOU ARE THE WORST AND I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU), and she’s like WAIT what about that party that that rich lady is throwing us? We HAVE to go! I can totally deal with the social fallout from being fake-divorced after our fake-marriage, but I am NOT missing a party! So they go, and everyone else goes, including the father of Seb’s dead best friend (who Seb shot) and he’s, understandably, kind of pissed to see his son’s murderer, but Seb throws a huge tantrum and begs for forgiveness and eventually tells the whole story to his dead best friend’s dad and they don’t make up, exactly, but he does learn that HIS dad (Seb’s dad, you know, with the bum leg?) was the one who broke off their friendship (the dad-friendship, between Seb’s dad and Seb’s dead best friend’s dad) which is CURIOUS. Too painful? Embarrassed that his eldest turned out to be a murderer? Grumpy about the bum leg thing? Whatever; I have zero investment in this relationship so who cares. ALSO the dead best friend’s dad’s fiancée is…the runaway Austrian duchess. Dammit! I was wrong about Juliet! Maybe she’s just an asshole and that’s her whole backstory? Also, Seb’s dad and grandma show up to the party and his dad is like, how come nobody told me you kids were hitched?! And Seb is like, ummm…about that…we’re not? And his dad is like, WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA…?!
Seb’s dad knows his son pretty well, so he gets all, boy I know you tapped that ass and now you WILL marry her, and Seb’s all, no I will not!, and his dad is like, SEBASTIANNNNNNNNNN and gives him that Dad Side-Eye (you know the one), so Seb drags (literally! drags!) Maggie off to SCOTLAND where they get a quickie marriage in the middle of the night and then Sebastian promptly disappears. Yup, just slips out the door and rides away. HE RIDES AWAY. He doesn’t even boink her in the carriage one last time like a self-respecting romance hero would do – no, not our Sebastian, not our terrible awful very bad absolutely NO GOOD AT ALL Sebastian. A couple days later Maggie goes to see her new dad-in-law and she’s basically like, WHAT THE FUCK DUDE? And he’s all, oh Maggie, I know my son, he loves you, I have guilt, he’ll be back, I wish I hadn’t disowned him, blah blah blah, and obviously we see where Sebastian got his stupid tortured man gene. Ugh, this family. Meanwhile, Sebastian is in France, where he plans to spend a week waiting for Maggie to start divorce proceedings – and if she doesn’t, then that’s good news, because he’s decided to keep her. TRUE QUOTE. Keep her. Keep. Her. Like she’s a puppy! KEEP HER! Like she’s his property! THIS GUY, ugh. And then someone shows up on his doorstep and it’s his dead best friend WHO ISN’T DEAD and he probably went on to explain everything but, honestly, at that point I had basically given up on this entire story because COME ON. I cannot roll my eyes hard enough to express how completely ridiculous this plot has become. But I tried, oh I tried. I rolled my eyes so hard I broke my rolling muscle and I had to wear a brace. A face brace. A pulled eye roll muscle face brace, and now I look silly and no one will ever love me and my entire life is ruined and I will die sad and alone and it’s all Johanna Lindsay’s fault. Thanks a LOT, Johanna Lindsay! THANKS SO MUCH!
(But, to recap: Seb’s not dead best friend’s dad orchestrated the whole thing because of gambling debts? I don’t know, I guess he figured tricking his son’s best friend into thinking that he killed his best friend would make Seb’s dad give him money to pay his debts? Which is exactly what happened? Also the not dead best friend did end up marrying Maggie’s sister in secret years later and she did actually die in childbirth. Sad. But the not dead best friend named his son Sebastian…SUPER AWKWARD!!!!!! Sebastian doesn’t much care for any of this and he’s pretty pissed. It kills me to agree with him, but come on. That’s some messed up shit. I liked the dead best friend better when he was dead.)
Inexplicably, Juliet’s brother (who Juliet had sent to prison? Because that’s how it works?) holds the key to why Juliet is such an asshole, so Seb and his not dead best friend head to the prison to do some action hero shit and break him out. I honestly don’t care about what he has to say because whatever it is is only going to serve to reinforce what a terrible person Juliet is and make us, the readers, feel like she deserves to be treated the way everyone treats her. Even if she IS the assholiest asshole that ever assholed, the way she gets treated makes me SO uncomfortable – ragey, even. Seriously, this woman is constantly being dragged and grabbed and manhandled and choked and threatened with violence and cursed by characters we’re supposed to feel sympathetic with. We’re supposed to LIKE it when she gets hauled out of a room or humiliated (ooh ooh like the scene where she and her hubs are fighting at a party and then he puts his hand over her mouth AND EVERYONE PRESENT APPLAUDS…hahaha LADIES, amiright?!) and, sorry, I don’t like it. It’s disgusting and it’s terrible and it’s only a matter of time before Maggie…say, where is Maggie? What has Maggie been doing while Sebastian is off punching things and brooding and being a jerk? Is Maggie even a main character in this story? It feels a lot more like The Sadsack Story of Sadsack Sebastian’s Sadsack Life In Lonely Exile And How He Rose Above to Have The Incredibly Manly Adventures of a Manly Man Who Fucks Women and Hits Things Like an Incredibly Manly Man. Besides gasping a lot and being confused and riding her stupidly-named horse (Sweet Tooth. SWEET TOOTH?! WORST. NAME. EVER. Every time I hear that stupid name I get a wave of embarrassment for her! For both of them! For Maggie AND the stupid horse!) and tricking ol’ Seb into coming home, has Maggie actually DONE anything this whole book? Nope. Not really. She is as painfully one-note and dull as Sebastian is violent and overbearing.
So, look, we all know how this book ends: Sebastian goes back to find Maggie, everything is revealed, they live happily ever after – and that is how things wrap up. Only the “everything is revealed” scene is so COMPLETELY ridiculous and stupid and absolutely nonsensical that I was literally driving my car and my eyes rolled so hard they popped out of my head and flew out the window and continued rolling and rolling and rolling for block after block until finally I just turned the whole stupid thing off and threw up my hands and GAVE UP. You’ve heard the “KISS” rule? Keep It Simple, Stupid? Johanna Lindsay sure hasn’t. Or maybe she has. Maybe this whole stupid novel is just a joke on us, the romance novel reading public. Maybe Johanna Lindsay wrote this whole book while drinking her way through a case of wine and cackling at her own ridicu-brilliance, using each twist and turn to one-up herself and send the story right over the cliff of reason into OMFGWTF, and then she went a took a swim in a huge vat of money and continued giggling all the way to the bank.
I sure hope so, anyway.