by Marsha Canham, historical (1984)
Avon, $2.95, ISBN 0-380-85985-8
China Rose has a heroine whose name is just that, China Rose. Innocent and pure Gothic heroine-wannabe China Rose moves to Ranulf Cross' creepy mansion as his bride. But things aren't what they seem - Ranulf is not only the test driver at the local brothel (so to speak), he also leaves her alone to wander around the big house at night. And she happens to meet black sheep and hated younger Cross son, Justin. Justin's the one who sets her heart apitter-patter. Oh dear.
But is Justin just using her to get back at his brother? And when a pirate fellow gets involved, and blackmails and stuff start flying, China gets dragged right into the Cross brothers' crossfire. Oh dear.
This book - is it the author's first? - is pretty bawdy at places, and it is also pretty exciting. Justin is definitely a hunk, oozing sex appeal from every inch of his big frame. I pretty much keep turning the pages just to see what that dastardly rogue would do next in flabbergasting Ranulf.
And China? Well, despite her tendency of not being able to finish three quarter of her entire repertoire of sentences ("Justin, I -", "Wh - oh yes...", "Justin?", "Justin!", "JUSTIN!", etc), she develops well from a really sheltered and helpless woman into one who can scream and stand her own amidst the nonsense from the men in her life. She's not exactly a Sigourney Weaver, but she's no Ally McBeal either, but a nice touch of both.
Unfortunately, I must say the romance pales, since all those dashing Cross men trying to get their big hands around each other's neck make much more enjoyable reading than China getting all shivery in manly Justin's embrace. China Rose is definitely the men's stories, and China dear makes a pretty and only sometimes useful ornament. Justin's still a fine figure, I must say.
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