Avon Inspire, $7.99, ISB 978-0-06-287382-8
Historical Romance, 2018 (Reissue)
DiAnn Mills’s Awaken My Heart was first published in trade paperback format back in 2008, and it’s quietly marketed as part of the more unholy mainstream Avon releases, which is how it falls into my clutches. I would have given it wide berth if I had known, especially if I had known that God talks to the heroine via her favorite horse.
At its core, this is a very familiar story if one has read enough stories in which the heroine of a Western historical romance – a white woman, of course – gets kidnapped by a native American and falls in love with him. This time, switch out Horny Fox for the leader of the neighborhood oppressed Mexican-native American peasants, and it’s still the same story.
Marianne Phillips’s greatest rebellion before she is kidnapped by the mestizos is riding her father’s horse Diablo behind his back. The author is probably going for some imagery of our angelic heroine taming the devil with this one, but my heathen self can’t help snickering each time the author talks about how Marianne mounts the Devil. As you can guess, her father is the singularly evil land owner who somehow has an army of equally vile men at his disposal, which he uses to bully and even destroy other people in order to expand his holdings. This man is such a cartoon villain, I’m actually surprised that the author managed to restrain herself from making this fellow a homosexual pedophile sex fiend too.
Even before she mounts the Mexican, er, you know, Marianne is already identifying as a trans-mestizo. Her mother warns her to dress modestly, but our Christian heroine balks, preferring the loose, comfortable, skin-baring clothes of those people, and she even has a sombrero to match. Therefore, when she is kidnapped by Armando Garcia’s men and brought to him, shortly after she is told by her mother than her father wants to marry her off to some old man – eeeuw, it’s not like such May-December marriages are ever present in her favorite book, the Bible – she is in for the ride of her life. After all, she insists on marrying for love, and Armando, like her precious horse Diablo from whom God speaks to her, is love.
Awaken My Heart is a painful read because Marianne is a wretch who can’t do anything most of the time without first wailing to God to tell her what she should do. It’s hard to root for a heroine who is way too passive most of the time, and her only reaction to every other situation is to beg God to tell her what to do. It’s ridiculous how little agency our heroine has – she’s practically a sack of potatoes tossed around all over the place. Also, I notice that she never asks God whether she should marry the man her father picks for her – clearly, this idiot believes that when it comes to whom she should allow into her chapel of love, God will 300% agree with her. It doesn’t help that, because desires and lusty feelings are not kosher in inspirational romances, the author compensates by making the heroine’s temperament to that of a prepubescent girl and the romance is more of a daddy and his hapless little girl kind of thing. Oh, and what a surprise, our heroine is an idiot, all feelings and no thinking. Her father wants more land for his cattle to graze on, and she is like, they have a big house and plenty of land already, so she doesn’t understand why her father needs more lands.
And yet, there will be moments when she will immediately morph into a Sunday school nun in order to preach to various secondary characters and drop scriptures like nobody’s business. Given how abrupt the transformation from moron to sermon can be, Marianne may as well be speaking in tongues. Hmm, that would at least be entertaining to read.
As for the talking God horse… you know what, let’s just move on.
Armando is basically Marianne’s new daddy who has to protect her from everything and anything in this world. He is besotted with Marianne at first sight, comparing her to an angel, and if that wretch is what an angel is like, no wonder the world is like it is today. There is little else to him. He comes off as way too wishy-washy and indecisive to be a convincing leader of his people, but it doesn’t matter. He is created to be Marianne’s new daddy, and that’s the most important thing.
Awaken My Heart is a celebration of a child-like idiotic heroine screeching away at God all the time and somehow bumbling her way into finding a real daddy who will love her forever and ever. The whole thing is creepy as hell, and the people at Avon can go sit on a pineapple for siccing this thing onto the unsuspecting heathen slice of the romance reading population.