Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-82053-6
Historical Romance, 2002
All My Desire, huh? Try All My Bile. This one is like a spaghetti nightmare of stringed-along medieval clichés. I can predict correctly the characters’ actions, lip-sync the dialogues ten seconds before they happen… you know what, give me a publishing contract and I can write this story too. That is, if I don’t expire from boredom halfway through writing yet another bad kidnap fantasy.
The trouble with bad stringed-along cliché romances are that most of the time the clichés don’t make sense when they come together. As it is, this story doesn’t make much sense as a result.
I mean, try and picture this. Alexander DeFronchette is your usual bastard/unacknowledged/whatever son of a bad traitor. But he is angry when his father’s lands go to one Sir Connor instead of to him – the son of a traitor who had never acknowledge DePonchette here as his son. Fancy that, how could King Richard be so insensitive, huh? What is the world coming to, people? So now DePonchette wants revenge. He doesn’t know why his father died and doesn’t seem to care, he knows his father is scum, but he wants revenge. The giant letters W, T, and F (and a question mark) fall from the sky onto poor old me.
So he goes to the meanest man he can find, one Lord Oswold, who also happens to have the meanest lech son one could have: Osburn. The Double-O-Psycho here hires DePonchette to kidnap the wife of Sir Connor, a fair and kind lord to his serfs, for ransom. And so DePonchette, never a more intelligent and noble knight you can find in Christendom indeed, goes with his passel of Token Best Buddy and Company Knights, but oops, the silly woman they may as well kidnap while blindfolded is actually their target’s sister.
Isabelle is a typical medieval heroine – wild, crazy, reckless, and one hammer hit in the head away from being deranged. She is the kind that will wander through a dark woods filled with man-eating bears while dousing honey on her face and singing at the top of her voice. She knows she shouldn’t snuck off alone, she knows DePonchette’s character looks unsafe, but she must sneak off with him to see some pretty, pretty ribbons and wham! Guess who’s trussed and captured. It’s probably much harder to clobber sedated puppies to death.
Our heroine flees!
And trips over the tree root.
While unconscious, she gets pawed all over by DePonchette, who finds her so hot.
She wakes up, and they bicker.
Danger! Guess who is the main cause of all the dangers. Evil men bent on rapine (no, silly, not DePonchette, he’s the hero)! Pirates! Norsemen! Traitors! More evil men bent on rapine! Did I mention the Double-O-Psycho? This is Super Mario Bros gone Medieval La-La Land, minus cute animations or any hope that evil King Koopa will make an appearance and torch this book to flames.
But of course, the romance is as amazing as always. DePonchette can lust after our heroine when she is unconscious, stoned, quarreling with him, anything. Our heroine is kidnapped, manhandled, but in the end she says that she comes to him a girl and he leaves her a woman, and she actually means that as a good thing. There’s no need for character development, just add in lots of bickerings and people getting aroused while trussing each other up or escaping ugly men bent on rapine, and that, people, is “sexual tension”.
Oh, and remember DePonchette’s stupid vengeance thing? When he finally realizes what an ass he is – this epiphany is brought to him by the mighty Innocent Heroine Catalyzed Path of Illumination to Enlightment – he immediately begins to make reparations. By singing the “I know what’s good for her” opening line, backed by the chorus of Cliché Alleycat Troupes as they yodel “Send her away! Send her away!” to DePonchette’s marvelous baritone: “For her owwwwwwwwwn go-ooo-ooo-oood!” (Alleycat Troupes: “But after the love scene! But after the love scene! Natura-leeee! Natura-leeee! Let me dieeee after I’ve made her a woooooohhhh-mon!”)
Upon which our heroine does her best imitation of Pathetic Puny Éponine: “But it is alright, because he made me a woman! I am his wohhhh-mon! Only his, until I diiiiiie!”
Alright, I confess, the last few chapters leave me slightly moist in the eyes. That’s why this book makes the passing grade. The author can do effective dramatic scenes, I just don’t know why she chooses to go the Super Mario Bros route with her story.
Maybe in the hands of somebody else, a Super Mario Bros story crossed with La Martyr Blues will be fascinating – if macabre – entertainment. But All My Desire only gives me migraine as blue as its cover.