by Debra Lee Brown, historical (2000)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29106-X
Amnesia, virginity, and Highland feuds. The Unholy Trinity of Romance Clichés all in full force in a Harlequin novel - that is enough to make me almost run away in terror. But this is also a Golden Heart Award winner, and my experience with these award winning stories are so far pretty decent.
However, this time the Three Evil Clichés are too strong and figure too much in the plot. The author lacks the necessary experience or skill to make these trite plot materials entertaining. The story also holds little surprises in terms of plotting and character development. Hence, the result is a frown on my face that gets heavier and surlier with each turning of the page.
Handicapped (not that I'd know it if he didn't bring it up ad nauseum), scarred (again, I wouldn't know it if he didn't keep whining about it) and surly Highland laird Gilchrist Mackintosh of clan Davidson has to marry now to prove his place as a leader. And he doesn't like it because he has been Betrayed by an Evil Woman before. The same old broken tune, really.
He rescues innocent, pure, virginal Rachel near the mythical Virgin Spring. Rachel has amnesia and the only indication of her identity is the name Rachel on her silver ring. Since the Virgin Spring is like a one-stop confession stand - dip in it and all your sins are forgiven - Gilchrist start wondering if this innocent-looking woman is a slutty temptress or his type, the virgin-in-distress.
So there they go, he pushing her away, she going all confused and keep coming back for more, and they solve the no-brainer mystery of Rachel's identity. Oh, and the conflict because of Gilchrist's engagement to a bride he has never seen is wrapped up more nicely than a Christmas gift.
It would be easy to forgive such liberal overdosage of everything trite and contrived if the writing is good, but alas, it isn't. The writing is at places choppy. Also, the push-and-pull becomes really irritating after 100 pages. When he finally wants to get it on, she says stop - let her find her identity first. And on and on they go, finding excuses or creating their own just to sulk. And the hero did something really stupid towards the end of the story, making him a total walrus in my opinion.
If only the Virgin Spring mythology is used fuller than an excuse to prove that Virginity Is A Virtue To Be Loved. If only the hero isn't such a mumu. If only the heroine shows a bit more spirit. If only, if only, if only. Oh well. Nice cover though.
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