by Laurie Brown, historical (2003)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7438-7
Laurie Brown's The Night We Kissed truly drives home just how excruciating it can be to read a horribly plotted book. The set-up is implausible, the characters are unbearably moronic, and the story spirals down into even more unbelievable depths of stupidity as it progresses.
Our American heroine Cordelia Weston has always taken care of the family. She has a problem: her younger sister Emily is pregnant and the AWOL lover is in England. Emily is certain that Ernest will return to her. The crazy Granny, Vivian, is offering useless advice or changing personalities - she hasn't been the same since they razed down her home, poor thing. Emily is a truly horrific creature - spoiled, very bratty, and ignorant, but Cordelia is a doormat that does everything Emily wants her to do. So our heroine agrees on a crazy plan: she, Emily, and Granny will board a vessel to England to look for Ernest while Cordelia plays the chaperone to the neighbor's daughter Sarah "Precious" Cosley. (It is never explained why this Cosley fellow will pay for Emily and Granny to go to England along with his daughter and Cordelia.) On the vessel, Emily informs Cordelia that Precious has eloped with a suitor and now Cordelia must pose as Precious. So Cordelia agrees. (Again, no mention of what she will do if she is found out or when she has found Ernest - is she just going to tell Precious' uncle, "Ha, ha, fooled ya, I gotta go, bye!"?)
But the thing is, this whole set-up doesn't make sense - okay, it makes even less sense as Cordelia complains early on that they have no money. Soldiers are dying in the Civil War between the States. Not to be mean or anything, but I don't think people will be too concerned when the idiot Emily begins to show. But apparently going to England to look for her sister's missing boyfriend is top priority in the Westons' lives. And this is before Cordelia reaches England and starts wailing that they have no money to get back to America. Isn't this fun, people? Isn't it wonderful to read about stupid people like Cordelia and family?
Of course, in England, Cordelia feels guilty about lying (for some reason, it has never occurred to her that she will have to lie when she's playing the role of another person) and wants to confess, but then she justifies that she has to carry out the deception or Precious' uncle will throw Granny out to the streets. So every lie she tells is now to Protect Granny - a form of hypocritical self-justification at its finest. Along the way, Cordelia runs all over the place trying to salvage matters as Emily and Granny run amok all over the place. Let's just say that it is more excruciating than funny to read about Granny slipping out at night and Cordelia chasing after her. The story becomes even more ridiculous when the very irritated Precious - the real one - shows up and a mistaken identity crisis props up regarding Ernest.
There's a hero, of course. Anthony Burke, Viscount Deering, is meeting a Confederate spy. Cordelia does some slave/refugee escape stint in her free-time. These characters' extra-curricular past time only piles on the stoopids.
But the last straw has to be when Cordelia is really down at the bottom of the barrel and Anthony offers to marry her to save her from herself. Will she say yes? What do you think? Cordelia spends most of the early parts of the book whining that she is a spinster not looking for love but when Anthony proposes, she's all about love and so she will rather suffer than to marry a man that does not say the three magic words to her, even if marriage can help her overcome a lot of her problems at that moment! Just when I think this woman cannot be anymore of a thought-free doormat, she has to dig the bottom of the barrel and whack me in the head with the shovel while she's at it.
The Night We Kissed has no logic, no intelligent characters, no decent plot, no plausibility, and no fun whatsoever. Badly plotted from start to finish, it's a marvel that I actually managed to reach the last page without having my brain cells fried to a crisp by the lunacy going on in the book.
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