I have heard great things about the up-and-coming author Heather Snow, so I was eager to give her debut novel Sweet Enemy a try. My feelings upon completing the story are rather conflicted. One the one hand, there were parts of the story that were particularly appealing. The story maintains a fast paced plot from page one, transitioning from mystery to romantic interaction and then to a rather prolonged period of angst. Moments of the story were quite amusing, and there were a number of scenes that fully engaged me in the suspense. I found the heroine delightful more often than not. And yet, there were also several points of contention I had with the book. Chief among these was a moderately weak developing romance and an unoriginal... well, an unoriginal everything.
The action starts with the opening scene of the novel. The heroine is attacked by an intruder, and in the aftermath she discovers a series of coded letters indicating that her father's death was not an accident. She manages to secure an invitation to the hero's house party after learning that it was his family's seal attached to the letters. The heroine snoops around for a couple of days, but the mystery premise is gradually pushed to the side as the romance begins. The heroine and hero have some chance encounters and the heroine - in an effort to repel the hero - allows herself to be contrary and unorthodox as possible. This, of course, has the opposite effect as the hero finds himself attracted to the heroine's wit, logical mind, and passion for her "life's work." The couple dance around each other in lust for the majority of the country party, alternating between being attracted to each other and believing they shouldn't be attracted to each other. The conflicts come to a head at about 70% through the story, allowing plenty of time for angst before the final reconciliation.
The writing wasn't so much unsatisfactory as it was largely predictable. The heroine is a chemist in the Regency era who: developed her passion for science from her father, doesn't plan to marry, eschews propriety completely, rides astride, feels uncomfortable in social situations, and has an all-consuming desire to find the truth. The hero is an ex-soldier who aspires to a political career in order to help penniless soldiers. Does any of this sound familiar? The two major conflicts are that the hero wants to marry a wife that would help his career, and that the heroine is sneaking around investigating behind the hero's back. Oh, and the hero is adamant about not falling in love because his parents had a bad marriage. I was definitely rolling my eyes by the time of the heroine's "big reveal," as well as when everything is resolved with a kidnapping subplot. As a character, I was never that crazy about the hero. He came on too strong at the beginning, when he didn't know the heroine beyond her beauty, and then again at the conflicts. He would always be sorry afterwards, but it felt like "too little too late" to me. I was also not convinced with the romantic development. The relationship seems to be initiated and then progress primarily because of a superficial level of attraction. The hero and heroine go on long rides at a point well into the novel, supposedly becoming closer friends, but most of that happens off-screen. The readers are largely treated to the physical interactions only, sometimes described in excessively flowery prose: "Indigo melted into warm cobalt, a blue fire that heated Liliana," "her eyes sparked, sending embers sizzling through his chest," "a melting heat drizzled down Liliana's middle," " his voice moved over her like warm velvet caress," etc. It was a bit much for my masculine sensibilities. As a final complaint, there were a few places I questioned the historical accuracy. It would have been scandalous for a young unmarried woman to live in a cottage with only a manservant, and I can't imagine a situation where a well born woman could end up as a "Mrs" at the time.
Heather Snow's Sweet Enemy is a novel that has it's strengths, and I can understand why it was generally well-received. At the end of the day, however, I was frustrated by the formulaic characters and plot as well as a few other weaknesses. It was an average read for me, and I feel my time would have been better spent on a more fascinating story.