by Laura Parker, historical (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7086-1
Don't be fooled by the title of this book. This is not a light-hearted romp. It does feature a too-reckless heroine in the form of Japonica Fortnom, but even I wouldn't wish on the girl the fate Laura Parker meted on Japonica for her one foolhardy escapade: rape, a nightmare marriage, and perpetual victimization by everyone around her. Oh, and the hero's the one who did the rape.
See, Japonica is a hellion-cum-healer, a surefire recipe for a lawsuit in real life but in romance novels, it's to die for. When some old bastard fell sick, she dashes abroad all the way to Baghdad, braving Napoleon, just to heal that old bugger. She must be some healer, I think. Wow. But when the old bugger is out of the near-death zone, he sends her to Hind Div, not telling her that his real intention is to parade her "alluring innocence" so that Hind Div will want to marry her.
Hind Div, aka Devlyn Sinclair, is a very cautious man. See, he is a powerful man who can do many favors for the pathetic Baghdad fools he has to lower himself to live with. Naturally, many angry men sent their mistresses and wives to him so that they can kill him while he is in the middle of uh-uhing them. Hind Div, naturally, is too smart for that. See, he will drug these women first, sleep with them, and then send them packing. That way, they can't kill him! Smart, huh? (Of course, why the fork can't he just not see these women is beyond me.)
So he drugs Japonica, who goes to him to secure passage home to England for herself and the old bugger, and rapes her. Of course, it's not rape, says the author, because Japonica does the trashing-my-hands, I'm-having-an-accidental-orgasm thing. He realizes that she has a hymen, and is amazed. Here is a Truly Innocent Woman. Yes, virgins are incapable of evil. The things I learn every day from romance novels, I tell you.
Japonica, upon realizing what she has been done to, tells him that he must give her safe passage home as he has already taken her virginity. He is amazed. What an amazing woman! Drugged, lost her virginity, and she's not crying! He is So Impressed.
Hey, Hind Deep, go sit on a battle ax, you f**king monster. Oh, how I hate that lecher. I feel Earth Goddess Bobbitt surging in me like an elemental primal force just at the thought of introducing Hind Deep's penis with a rusty pair of pliers.
Cut to months later in England, where Japonica, reputation ruined and pregnant (ah, I didn't see that one coming!), married an old coot, inherits his cringe-inducing nasty daughters, meets Hind-Deep, and spends the rest of the book being humiliated and having to prove that she is up to Hind Deep's standards. He treats her like smelly meat, mocks her, and has the nerve to impose his rules and standards on her.
If I can vomit any more blood, I'll probably cough out my heart.
One thing I must say though: Japonica is the only good thing in this story. She started out a stereotype, but in the end she is a tragic victim. Her personality and will really showed even as she is slowly being bludgeoned into submissiveness by everyone around her. The story ends with the last of her spirit sputtering out, to be replaced by illusionary uxoria as a meagre compensation.
Sometimes "I love you" is not enough, and in this case, with Hind Deep spending so many pages acting like the new king of date rapists everywhere, I don't think it will ever be.
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