I’ll admit, I picked up the book because the title was a direct play on Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Which is one of my favorite plays of all time. Not only do I highly recommend the movie version with Rupert Everett, but I did my dissertation on that and two of Oscar Wilde’s other plays. So I was pretty excited for a book that played on the title, which is likely one of the reasons why I was so disappointed. Needless to say, despite the title, the book had very little to do with the play in terms of theme or style or pretty much anything.
What we do have is a man who just lost his family estate in a fire. Winfield Elliot, who apparently is also the hero of one of Alexander’s other stories, is a man who has very set ideas about the world. Firstly, that his old house is just fine the way it was and needs nothing in the way of progress. And that women have a very specific place in the world. At home, certainly not out doing things like having a job. Pfft. Let me get one thing off my chest right now. I don’t want our heroine to reform him. I want her to bury him somewhere. Preferably underneath that estate she’s rebuilding for him.
Our heroine is Miranda Garrett, a sensible young widow who has since taken charge of her late husband’s architect firm. Mostly because she was the one who had been doing the building designs in the first place and her husband had just been covering for her work. Yeah, don’t worry, I hate her too after a bit. At first I liked her for being progressive and not letting the man’s world dictate what she should be doing with her life even if she wasn’t allowed to do it openly. But then Winfield convinced her she needed new clothes, and she eventually gave up her business because he couldn’t stand the thought of her still being connected to her late husband in any way, shape or form. Honey, when your husband is jealous of the dead guy, he’s going to have insecurity issues about everything, and he’s totally not worth it in the first place.
Which brings me to the relationship development. There is none. Two hundred pages later, their relationship is in the exact same position it was in the beginning. What changed? Oh right, it certainly wasn’t his attitude. It was her clothes. And then suddenly porn. If we were going to get to the sex without much relationship development, we could have just started with the sex. It might have actually made the book more interesting.
The only conflict in the relationship comes from Winfield’s ridiculous notions about women and his insecurities about her dead husband. Which leads me to my least favorite part of the book. Alexander spends several pages with two of her characters discussing whether or not its possible to love two people at separate times equally to which the answer was yes. It took us several pages to get there, but the general conclusion was that her relationship with her husband should have no bearing on her relationship with Winfield and vice versa. Which is a notion I can really get behind, because widowers and divorcees need love too. Then she turns around and ruins it by deciding that Winfield is much better in the sack than her late husband, so it doesn’t really matter anyway.
My face, when I read that. Actually, I just really wanted to use that gif.
So you know what, I didn’t like this book. At all. I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t like the relationship development, and I certainly did not like the final conclusion about the late husband. However, Victoria Alexander is by no means a bad writer, even if I disagree with her plot and characters. If none of my above complaints bother you, then by all means, read the book, because there are plenty of other people out there who love this book. It’s just not the book for me.