The Survivors, Book 2.
Review of The Survivors, Book 1 here.
Heat factor: Probably 10% of this book is sex
Character Chemistry: They really want to have sex with each other
Plot: Ridiculous female has issues and no sense, needs rescue by emotionally scarred male
Overall: I’m annoyed
In this second installment of the Survivors series we get to know Neil Wraxall, who was introduced as the strategic leader (Warrior being his annoying moniker) in book one, and Lady Juliana St. Maur, who has just a bundle of issues, which we will likely not discuss further because we have other smut that wants reading.
The premise of the series is that there are 12 soldiers who went off to the Napoleonic wars and have a special bond because they managed to survive numerous suicide missions throughout the war. Thirty unwanted younger sons of aristocratic families joined Draven’s suicide troop and 12 came home with emotional and physical scars (aside from the emotional scars they already have due to being unwanted by their families).
The plot of this book is entirely predictable, so let’s get down to brass tacks.
- We’ll begin with the title. I don’t know why no earls are allowed. Neil is a bastard son of a Marquess. The man who ruined Juliana’s life (by marrying her sister, which is its own thing) is a Viscount. Juliana’s father is an Earl, but there’s no question of his not being allowed because he has no desire to be where Juliana is for most of the book.
- Neil is condescending. Several times he clearly indicates he has no respect for Juliana’s judgement at all.
“I had the situation under control.”
He let out a huff of laughter. She was obviously deluded. “Is that what you call it?”
And that’s just the first interaction. But he really wants to bone her because she’s a busty beauty, so I guess it’s fine that he thinks she’s got noodles for brains while she’s trying to take care of 12 common orphan boys in a rough part of town.
- Juliana might have noodles for brains. She’s an aristocratic lady with no experience of childrearing who suddenly decides to take up residence in an orphanage in a super shady area of town because they need her. So yes, children need love and support but
- They need funds for food and other necessities. Juliana makes a donation of her own money and apparently receives funds from the Board of the orphanage, but there’s not enough money and supplies keep disappearing. And yet, when Neil arrives and offers to buy breakfast for everyone she says she couldn’t possibly accept. I’m sorry, what? If you were at the orphanage for the sake of the boys and not for your own personal crusade, wouldn’t you accept anything that could support them?
- They need structure and boundaries. These boys are going to have to fend for themselves in the world, but Juliana not only doesn’t make them do any chores or take care of themselves in any way, she doesn’t even think they can do any of those things. She just thinks they need love. Over and over.
- They need to live in a safe environment. Juliana makes no attempts to repair any parts of the house (including windows and doors, and did I mention they live in a super shady neighborhood?) and she uses buckets and vases for all the leaks in the roof. And then when Neil (condescendingly but rightly) calls Juliana out on it, she’s offended.
Basically here we’re feeding into the notion that women have this essential mothering instinct that is rooted in naivete and impractical behavior, and men have to provide foundation, protection, and structure.
- In the whole of her life, Juliana has apparently met not a single man that she trusts, which is why she immediately mistrusts Neil and thinks he’s either going to bail on her or is serving his own agenda. Why would she be worried about him bailing if she thinks he’s serving his own agenda? Good question. BUT STILL she trusts the manservant at the orphanage who is a product of the crime-ridden neighborhood and who is obviously not working for her own or the orphanage’s best interests. Because servants obviously don’t have agendas, right?
- About halfway through the book (I kid you not. half. way.), the dastardly villain makes his move, culminating in a harrowing scene of fisticuffs and fire. One of the children has been “taken” by the bad guy only not because, let’s be honest, this kid is living in Spitalfields and hasn’t got a lot of morally upstanding adults or peers hanging around providing positive feedback and an meaningful community environment. So of course Noodle Brains declares that she IS GOING into the villain’s lair and NOTHING NEIL DOES will change that. Because the child NEEDS HER. Fortunately she realizes this was a supremely idiotic idea. Unfortunately it’s after they’re already in the lair, completely surrounded by unsavory characters who would eat up and spit out a naive gentlewoman in a heartbeat. Especially naive gentlewomen who are senseless enough to draw attention to themselves in a den of iniquity. I have multiple notes in two chapters about this hugely obnoxious interlude.
Side note: This is one of those “strong woman” tropes that drives me nuts. If, in fact, you are a sensible person, you should have some inkling of 1) your surroundings and 2) whether or not you have the skills needed to address a given situation. A strong woman does not interfere with strategic planning by trained experts just because she feels she should be included. She does not think she knows better than said experts even though she has no relevant experience or training. If she does have those things, bully for her! But in 9 of 10 books I read, she absolutely does not, and, setting aside the rudeness of exclusion by most of the male characters in these stories, the fact that her willfulness jeopardizes everyone else is NOT CUTE. /rant.
- Just when you think the book has reached its climax and is winding down, you realize that you still have about half of the book still to read, and we enter Conflict the Second, a.k.a. I’m not good enough for you so I have to leave you even though we love each other because it’s best for you. And then the actual climax comes and the hero who walked away is all, “What have I done? I was so foolish. Love interest needs me because I am a hero and I will die of misery if anything happens to her.”
Frankly I was sort of annoyed that there were so many portions of this book I enjoyed because there were so many other parts that either frustrated or enraged me.
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