His In Abstinence.
Publisher: Bantam (Random House)
First Published: 15th May 2010
Date Reviewed: 22nd February 2013
Lord Vere is considered an idiot by society, and that’s the way it needs to be. Working as a secret agent, being oblivious is a good cover for times when he is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time (or, rather, the right place and right time). Elissande lives with her aunt and uncle, and the latter is a tyrant and unstable. When Vere arrives at her house, under a sort of pretence so that he can spy on her uncle’s actions, Elissande realises that her guest could be her ticket out. But with issues between them and a set up to make marriage inevitable, from the word ‘go’ it was never going to be a happy ever after.
His At Night is a wonderfully written but somewhat lacking tale that manages to capture Thomas’s unique storytelling whilst missing what could have been a good book. The major issue is that there is in fact very little romance – the characters misunderstand and hate each other for almost the entire book and these misunderstandings can become rather irritating.
As an example, one can look to Vere’s pretend stupidity. Whilst it made sense to keep Elissande unaware of his education for a while, the pretence lasts far too long and this is a pity because it is a lot of the reason for the lack of romance. A quick divulging of secrets would have sufficed, and Vere could have kept pretending to others. A few of the things Thomas says Vere has achieved, due to his impression on people, are unbelievable, especially considering the extent of this pretence.
What romance there is is rather strange. Vere has had an ongoing fantasy of his ideal woman and when he first sees Elissande, whose physicality matches perfectly that of his make-believe lover, he is happy, but when her personality doesn’t match up he gives up on her. Vere lives so much in his head in this way that he wonders whether he ought not just keep doing so rather than be with a real person. It does illustrate the differences between imagined perfection and reality, but it makes Vere difficult to feel for.
There is a great deal of time given to the mystery plot and what Elissande is afraid of regarding her uncle. It is interesting and well-plotted, but with the addition in the book of a secondary romance thread (a proper romance thread one might add) it detracts from the main storyline.
Given the book’s title and cover, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this would be a steamy romance. But Elissande is neither His At Night, his in the day, or his at the weekend after lunch. However despite the fact the contents do not match the cover or title, Thomas’s wielding of language is as stunning as always and the actual development of the characters is not bad at all.
His At Night is a spy story driven by a particular difference – it’s hiding from itself and thus you, too.
August 27, 2014, 6:52 am
Love the cover, so yellow ;)
August 27, 2014, 2:02 pm
Great review, its just a shame you found so much lacking with this book.
August 27, 2014, 5:50 pm
I get frustrated with romance threads when the couples fight for most of the book–and keep secrets from each other for long. You just want to shake them. Ugh.
I am glad the mystery portion was at least better done and that you liked the writing.
August 31, 2014, 3:25 pm
I do not get on with Sherry Thomas at all. Everyone who loves my favorite romance authors also loves Sherry Thomas, but I haven’t liked a single one of her books. For me, there’s always something lacking about the romance itself, and it keeps me from enjoying them. This one was maybe my least favorite, though.