The Prince Of Cups
by Gayle Feyrer, historical (1995)
Dell, $5.50, ISBN 0-440-21777-6
Sheer breathtaking historical scenery of 1500s Italy - a time when the infamous Borgia clan lord over everyone else - cannot overcome the major flaws in Geyle Feyrer's debut novel The Prince Of Cups. It is filled with so many problems typical of a debut author's work: misunderstandings big and small, mistaken sex, the heroine so passive that she makes herself a victim, and an oversexed hero whose Steve Morgan type of antics and slut parade show get old really fast.
Veronica Danti is your typical Maiden of Misery sort - married to a feeble kid, almost got raped by her father-in-law only to get "gentle-raped" by the hero instead, and then ditched unceremoniously on the roadside as the hero proceeds to go on to screw everything female that moves in this story. They meet again when the hero Antonio di Fabiani tries to honor her mother's last request... oh, let's just say if I spend the time telling you the epic-like saga of marriages, desertion, estrangements, reunions, and all, you will be better off reading this soap opera yourself. The story spans all across the place, covering every single plot device that can victimize both our hero and heroine further, and even dear sweet lil' Lucrezia make an appearance.
But throughout it all, Veronica takes all the crap everybody - including the hero - dishes out on her lying down. Even if you argue that she, as a woman, is powerless politically and socially, I find it hard to believe that she is happy to take it all and weep in martyr-like resignation. Nobody that be so enduring of so much crap, surely. The hero has a lot - and I do mean a lot - of issues but in the end, the author does an excellent job turning him into a reformed man who at least tries to be responsible and selfless for once. But what does he do to show that? By trusting a person he and Dani know is scum. The drama that ensue isn't worth vomiting blood over, because it's so stupid.
The political tapestry this story is built on can be an impressive read, but the drama and angst that result are tedious and unnecessary. If the characters act using even half their brainpower capacity, most of the soap opera could have been avoided. Mistrust, unnecessary misunderstandings, the Missing Letter Plot Device, and everything that could have come from some encyclopedic compendium of debut author mistakes cover as much ground in The Prince Of Cups as the vivid atmosphere and hot hot sex. There's promise in this book, but it's a book that would be more at home if readers are looking for a Rosemary Rogers type of romp. In fact, come to think of it, this is a college-level upgrade to the grade school Sweet Savage Love operatics, only this baby is set in Rome. Whoopee indeed.
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