by Judith E French, Donna Jordan, and Jean Wilson; historical (2003)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7515-4
I think the Art Department of Zebra may be taking its bohemian lifestyle a little too seriously. This anthology contains a 14th century Scottish romance, a Crusade-era English romance, and a 19th century Western romance. I have no idea what that very contemporary bridgeroom-in-tux cover has to do with any of the stories of this anthology. Illegal pharmaceuticals, artists, are never good for health and mind.
Judith E French is a polished writer who can be relied not to croak her way through bad prose, but her MacKenzie's Bride is broken by a really derivative Blame It On Mommy plot. Lorna MacNeil is ordered by her evil stepmomma to pretend to be her stepsister Uma and marry the enemy Calum MacKenzie like the king ordered. Both characters protest like crazy. But when Lorna has to decide between being forced to sleep with both her stepbrothers and marrying the man she believes to have poisoned her father to death, guess what she decides to do. Then it turns out that he is the same boy who rescued her when she was eleven and stupid, and voila, it's love. He starts out a boorish bloodthirsty brute but immediately transforms into a 21st century Magic Man all about Equality, Open-mind, Respect People, and Love Your Momma type of guy. It must be read to be believed, this miracle turning over a new leaf from Calum. If that's not bad enough, everything is Evil Stepmomma's fault, and in the end, our hero wipes out the evil stepclan of his wife and they all live happily ever after as One Peaceful Clan. Which is easy when you've gotten rid of the Other Clan. But this amusing turn of events is completely lost on the author.
Standard plot and characters written poorly all result in a forgettable story.
Donna Jordan's story, Simon's Bride, is too short to be effective, but there are enough signs here that may make me pick up her full-length books, that is, if I can find them, thanks to Zebra's pathetic hide-and-seek style of distribution. Simon, known as "Richard's Regret" because he is the only man whom Richard can't have... okay, okay, Simon is actually a servant of a knight. The knight was killed and Simon was held in captivity by the Saracens for so long because no one remembered he existed. Then one day he escapes, and King Richard, upon hearing his plight, feels so sorry for him that he makes Simon his own servant. Today he is granted the holdings that are Elizabeth of Eddesley's home. Elizabeth may not happy at being booted from her home, but at least she will marry that handsome Rolf who has won her heart.
Then she learns the awful truth: Simon gets not only her home but also her in the bargain.
Elizabeth wants Rolf. Simon is attracted to Elizabeth but he will not stand in her way, even if his heart tells him not to be so stupid. A really big kudos to Ms Jordan for not making Rolf an unlikeable psycho, for making Elizabeth grow up, and to create a really sweet hero who isn't above showing some manly macho dramatic love gesture when he has to. This story is too short to give both characters room to grow on me, but the author almost did it. There's character development, drama, and emotional growth. I like this one - it's a class above the other two novellas in this anthology.
Jean Wilson's Saturday's Bride is a tedious story of Chase Sinclair and Amelia Swanson who married for one day before her rich daddy splitted them asunder the next day for the sake of mankind. Today, his brother has kiddnapped her sister on the sister's wedding day, so Amelia has to throw herself to Chase and endure his asshole behavior. Instead of thanking her lucky stars that she never married this jackass, she insteads apologize and marry him back. Ten years down the road: double sisters married to assholes special on Jerry Springer!
Bah. Saturday's Bride is not only unoriginal but it is also annoying. It's easily the weakest tale of the three.
One good, one average, one below average - all three stories sort of cancel each other out, making this anthology right the average zone. Still, it at least introduces me to Donna Jordan. I'll be very interested to see what her full length works have to offer.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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