My Secret Protector
by Pam Binder, paranormal (2003)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-1795-X
Oh, what a waste. Pam Binder has many wonderful ideas about her Immortals, and the second half of this book is almost a very good paranormal romance. Almost, that is. Throughout this book, it's very obvious that the imagination and the enthusiasm far surpass the author's ability to set everything down on paper. The story, as a result, is filled with awkward writing and most damning of all, the heroine is a classic too-stupid-to-live Bambi Barbie.
William McAlpin is an Immortal with a difference - he is a Protector, an Immortal granted gifts to do good and make sure all is right in the world. William rejects his responsibilities, however, and today he lives a more mundane 21st-century life: he's a smoke jumper. However, now that a rogue Immortal has traveled back in time to 16th century England to mess up time by prolonging Queen Mary's life and preventing Queen Elizabeth from ascending the throne. This is a disaster! Without the subsequent Regency era down the long road of English history, the romance novel industry will collapse, so This. Must. Be. Stopped. He is ambushed the moment he arrives in the 16th century, but he is saved by the village idiot, Isabel de Pinze. Only, the book doesn't call her the village idiot. Which she so obviously is.
Isabel nurses him back to health. When he recovers, she spends time giggling when he tells her to be careful while declaring that she loves him, she loves him, she loves him in a grating style reminiscent of a razor blade slashing across the wrists. Isabel isn't just stupid, she's nauseatingly Pure in the way only Really Idiotic Girl-Childs can be. When Myra, the stereotypical older woman friend, warns her that she doesn't know William and hence they shouldn't let this stranger into the house, Isabel actually bursts into tears. She later hugs Myra and tells Myra she loves the old woman because the old woman tends to William's wounds. She insists to Myra that William is not a criminal even as later she will acknowledge to herself that she has no idea who William is. Then, she decides to sleep on it, but she can't, because while she has no idea who William is, she is struck with the utmost need to discover why William kissed her before he fell unconscious. It's all there on page 35. Isabel is an idiot. If you are still not convinced, maybe page 118 will convince you: "As far as she was concerned, the subject was closed. She had no intention of letting him dictate to her what she could or could not do. Isabel smiled to herself, knowing he would really be angry if he knew she was in London earlier that day without an escort. He might be in danger, but she was perfectly safe." Oh, and yes, Isabel is an artist, one of those sad creatures who use a paintbrush like an evil weapon to accentuate their sickeningly waifish stupidity passed off as some "sexy ingenue personality".
The second half of the book is almost good though. By now Isabel has proven to be absolutely use-free, so it's very easy to just ignore her whenever she's in the story. The author chooses to emphasize on the Immortal subplot, and it's a pretty interesting read. The villains are obvious to the point of being transparent, William is an almost nondescript monotonously noble and gallant hero, and Isabel is a sore pustule ruining the scenery, but I really like the author's ideas. Her Immortal myth is drawn from various myths, folklores, and beliefs including those of Chinese and African cultures, and these all come together surprisingly well. Some of the best developed scenes of bravery and magic are also in the second half of the book. The first half of the book, with the emphasis on William sucking face with the pustule named Isabel, doesn't come close to compare.
So many ideas, so much promises, very little delivered, Pam Binder's My Secret Protector is a big disappointment. Hopefully one day soon she will be able to make good use of her imagination to write a book that lives up to her vision. Until then, this inept book remains a promise that can't be fulfilled, not now, not even close.
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