by Rebecca York, Ann Voss Peterson, and Patricia Rosemoor; contemporary category (2002)
Harlequin Intrigue, $4.75, ISBN 0-373-22684-5
I really like this one. There are times when I actually considering awarding this book keeper status but I finally decide not to. The serious reason? The portrayal of Gypsies and Patricia Rosemoor's really cringe-inducing Andrei. The shallow reason? There is no way I am putting up that cheap gay video cover art of this book on this page. Readers with heart problems may faint dead and I don't want to be sued. Seriously, I know the artist wants to put the three heroes posing like macho men in a Gypsy circus tent, but the final result looks like three gay porn stars - ugly ones at that - posing in some tacky brothel before the shooting of Bottoms Up! Hot Lusty Gay Gypsy Orgies. The guy at my farthest right, especially, looks that he's available to gyrate on your hips for a few hundred bucks.
Speaking of circus tents, this brings me to another problem: the portrayal of Gypsies. Here, they are living in circus trailers, going around from town and town throwing carnivals. I'm no Gypsy, but I know I will cringe if someone writes about Chinese people being nothing more that acrobats going around performing cheapskate versions of Cirque du Soleil. Every Gypsy here has the "sight", they tell fortunes, and I have never seen such blatant stereotyping since West Side Story came out and taught me that all South Americans tap dance and sing about washing machines in "the real America". I think some readers will not be amused with Gypsy Magic.
But Rebecca York's Wyatt and Ann Voss Peterson's Garner are very poignant, romantic, and just enough melodramatic little novellas that strike the right chords with me.
The ongoing thread that binds all three novellas is this: ten years ago, a Gypsy, Carlo, was wrongly accused of murder, and today, he awaits the Death Row. His mother cast a curse - I know, I actually cringe at that - on the three men and their family that she blames for her son's fate: the police detective who testified, the attorney who led the prosecution, and the husband of the murder victim. Justice is blind, love is death, the law is impotent.
For Wyatt, justice is blind. The hero, Wyatt Boudreaux (the cop's son), is blind. His father sent him to the carnival where Carlo hails from to make sure that the Gypsies don't interfere with Carlo's final glory, so to speak, but when he meets once more with Alessandra King, sparks rekindle anew. They will unearth a new clue that will prove Carlo's innocence, but in doing so, it may implicate one of Alessandra's own people.
Frankly, Wyatt is lovely as the driven man who actually changes his perspectives and viewpoints for Alessandra. The fact that he is blind yet trying to hard to save his love only adds to the romanticism of this man. Alessandra is a very solidly written heroine too - smart enough to accept facts without rushing into hysterical denials as too many heroines are wont to do - and she displays a maturity in matters regarding honor and loyalty and love that is rare across the romance genre.
I love the ending, especially, when in a way, Wyatt needs Alessandra to save him as much as he has saved her. Alessandra's a stereotype, with her 'sight' and all, but at least she doesn't annoy. In fact, I like her.
Love is death in Garner, and Garner Rosseau (the attorney's son) is a man depressed. His father is dead, after all. Sabina King, Alessandra's sister, needs to find someone who can help her reopen Carlo's case, and in this case, the only person still alive is the very DA that sent Carlo to jail. Or so she thought - the man just died a fortnight ago.
For Garner, it's love at first sight. It's more an obsessive type of love that he can't shake off even after he has directed her to a colleague who can help her. When accidents begin terrorizing Sabina, he finds himself playing her reluctant knight in shining armor.
And it's such a wonderfully dramatic love. I like how these two people end up being so beautifully codependent on each other. It's not healthy, of course, but I'm putting the Kleenex to good use when he tells her that she's the strongest woman he knows, because she makes him feel and all that rot, and she replies that he makes her strong. Oh, rubbish, these silly fools... sigh, I'm so touched, I need another Kleenex. Sniffle, sniffle, boo hoo.
And this novella has a closing paragraph that has me sighing with pure pleasure. Who would've thought an icky Harlequin Intrigue thing can make me sniff like this? Maybe things ain't completely the pits in Duncan Mill Road after all.
Then comes Patricia Rosemoor's Andrei. The law - and everybody - is impotent today. Oh. My. God. While Alessandra and Sabina are sight-ridden Gypsy stereotypes, at least they aren't too annoying. But Andrei is a walking anachronism of all the outdated, even offensive Gypsy cliché that the author has better hope that no Evil Wicked Gypsy Hag is reading this or she will get the curse or then we will need three authors to write an anthology based on Patricia Rosemoor's predicament.
Where do I start? Andrei King loves rich white gal Elizabeth Granville, who also happens to the daughter of the murder victim (talk about making life hard on oneself). He charges back in her life, and they bicker, bicker, bicker.
Is "Gypsy" an insult nowadays? Or more specifically, do we still use the word "Gypsy" to insult Gypsies? That's what Lizzy, a 2002 woman, does, and Andrei bristles.
Do people still treat Gypsies as if they are thieves and all but lynch them whenever the carnival comes to town? I'm pretty sure in America, Gypsies live in houses too and maybe one or two of them hold jobs outside the circus, but what do I know? I don't write for Harlequin. But if "Gypsy" is such an insult, why is this anthology called Gypsy Magic?
Andrei all but swaggers like some overly bloated Gypsy Tony to Lizzie's overwrought Maria that I really feel embarrassed for the both of them, never mind that they're both fictitious characters. The plot isn't too bad, but between the posturings and really archaic clichés about Circus Gypsy Folks, I'm too busy covering my eyes to really care.
Essentially, there are three good stories in this anthology (I can't believe I'm saying this, gah), but the overwhelming - and embarrassing - Gypsy ghetto caricatures littering this anthology is nothing short of cringe-inducing. Although to be fair, Harlequin is an equal opportunity stereotype-maker - just think small town folks, librarians, happy asexual gay pillow cushions of our city gals, Americanized sheiks with a fetish for American virgins, Latin lovers, and don't forget, Harlequin is the biggest offensive stereotype-maker when it comes to women.
Then again, those books aren't good, and unfortunately, Gypsy Magic, as a result, isn't that good. It could be, but it just isn't. That's the real Gypsy curse it has to bear.
This book at Amazon.com
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