by Geralyn Dawson, historical (1999)
Sonnet, $6.50, ISBN 0-671-03410-3
Christina Delaney is the tomboy black sheep of her wealthy and proper Texan family. When she is crowned Chili Queen on the account of her superb chili and pepper dishes (yep, this intrepid miss ran and opened a chili stall in the heart of the Mexican part of town without her family being aware of it), it's exile to England, never to come back without British lord hubby at her side. Cole Morgan, the British son of a gardener who is a close family friend, is going to England to recover a copy of the Declaration of Independence of Texas (the original one went up in flames). So guess who tags along with him?
Cole and Christina have been at loggerheads since their early adolescence, but when Christina waves her low-cut bodice and flirts with her British suitors, Cole stands straight at attention in all the ways that matter. They see who can find the Declaration first, get naughty under the covers, and I have lots of fun reading this book. It's definitely a much better book that the irritating The Kissing Stars or the overrated The Wedding Raffle. Christina and Cole are fun as a couple, and I have a grand time laughing with them as they find love in between skirmishes in bordellos and proper ballrooms.
However, I must admit this book isn't a keeper to me. Probably because this book has predictability and originality resting in an uneasy balance. I would groan at the predictable Can't marry you arguments from Christina after they are compromised, but then Ms Dawson would cook up something delightfully refreshing. A standout scene is Cole telling off Christina's mother (a woman he admires most) for being a pain in the sorry behind and an irritating henpecking broad.
Which brings me to my major problem with this novel. Christina. She is a tomboy, a woman in delights in life and its million colors, or so I thought in the first few chapters. Just when I'm about to give a cheer - At last! A heroine who isn't afraid to live life! - my good mood is instantly deflated when the story pulls a fast one on me. Christina's a tomboy because in the grand tradition of Stereotypical Romance Heroine, she is actually a misunderstood lady out to get her Mom's and Bro's attention. All she really wants is a home and ten kids sitting around her while she knits before the hearth. The fiery lass turns into an obligatory misunderstood Poor Little Eliza who finally needs Manly Cole to tell her mother off and show her the True Lady in her. Cole starts out disliking Christina's outrageousness, and I guess he gets his wish at the end. Christina has turned into wimpy teary woman who needs a man because she needs one and not because she wants one by the last page. I am not quite pleased at this development.
Why can't a heroine let her hair down because she wants to? Why oh why, for all Christina's seemingly daring acts, must she harbor a conventional I need a shoulder of a man to cling onto personality? I look at Christina and Cole and can shake my head at Christina's parasitic reliance on Cole for emotional support and Cole's one-sided I'll protect you, you depend on me nature.
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