The Gold Coin
By Andrea Kane
Publisher: Open Road
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
(electronic reissue of 1999 release)
Anastasia and Breanna Colby are what my mother would have called double first cousins: their fathers, identical twins, married sisters. The cousins are so similar in looks that few people can tell them apart. They are also devoted to one another. Their grandfather, who is able to tell the girls apart and who treasures their loyalty to one another, gives a gold coin to Anastasia and a silver coin to Breanna with the instructions that they are never to part with the coins. The girls themselves are parted, however, when Anastasia’s father moves with his family to Philadelphia to oversee the family import-export business there. Ten years later, after the deaths of her parents, Anastasia returns to England.
Not yet twenty-one, she is under the guardianship of her uncle, now Viscount Medford, a black-hearted villain, who hopes to gain control of her fortune for his own purposes. Fortunately, Anastasia’s father, familiar with his brother’s avarice, has left her fortune under the control of Damen Lockewood, Marquess of Sheldrake, who is not only a peer but also a savvy investment banker. Initially at adds because Sheldrake refuses to support Anastasia’s scheme of establishing a bank in Philadelphia, the two are soon business partners who are also fathoms deep in love with one another.
But Sheldrake is the man Medford has marked for Breanna’s cousin. To avoid his ire, Anastasia and Breanna once again exchange places. Predictably, Sheldrake, like their beloved grandfather, can tell the cousin’s apart. Eventually the cousins and the marquess/banker discover just how evil and desperate Medford is, but Anastasia’s life is endangered in the process.
I knew Andrea Kane only as the author of thrillers, not a genre I read. I missed the historical romances she wrote in the 1990s, except for a novella in the Christmas anthology A Gift of Love (1995), which I bought for Judith McNaught’s “Double Exposure.” So I was interested when I was offered a review copy of this book.
Anastasia is an interesting character. Her time in America and her father’s encouragement of her interests in business combine with her confidence and forthrightness that were present in even in the very young Anastasia to make her an unusual heroine. The love and loyalty that connect the cousins adds to the characters’ appeal. Breanna demonstrates her courage, even if it is less obvious than Anastasia’s.
But the male characters are less interesting because there is no shading to their characters. Sheldrake is perfect--handsome, wealthy, intelligent, intuitive, honorable, brave . . . He possesses the whole catalog of virtues. The only quality that makes him stand out as more than the most stereotypical of heroes is his status as a respected investment banker, the best in a family of astute investors. And I had a difficult time accepting that. This is not a Victorian romance. It opens in 1803, and most of the action takes place in 1818. It just seems improbable that a marquess in that period would be so involved in business, one in which his father before him had also been involved. The difficulty is compounded by the lack of scenes from the hero’s point of view. The connection with commerce is made even more unbelievable because it is true of the Medford family as well. In both cases, the connection comes not as the act of a rebellious son determined to restore the family fortune, but as a family tradition.
In contrast to Sheldrake’s perfection, Medford is a total villain, closer to the mustache-twirling fixture of melodrama than to a nuanced antagonist. Even though the reader is given far more insight into the thoughts of the villain than into the thoughts of the hero, none of what she learns is likely to evoke even reluctant sympathy or understanding.
Anastasia and Sheldrake are a deserving pair, and some readers may be persuaded by their compatibility and the sizzle of the love scenes that they will live in perpetual bliss. I confess I found myself wondering if the lively Anastasia would find herself bored with all that polished perfection before their first anniversary.
Breanna is the heroine of the sequel, The Silver Coin. Readers who like The Golden Coin more than I did will doubtless want to read it as well. I’ll pass on it, especially with the $8-$10 price tag for the electronic version.
Are you bothered by characters who seem to be perfectly good or bad, or do you prefer unshaded heroes and villains?