Rules Of Marriage
by Wilma Counts, historical (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7043-8

Ah, shades of Marjorie Farrell's Red, Red Rose here: the Peninsula Campaign is the backdrop for this romance. However, Rules Of Marriage lacks human, well-rounded characters (heroine is saintly and entirely virtuous with no selfish thought, hero a rather stock-ish sort of tortured hero) to provide emotional resonance the way Red, Red Rose did to me.

Our heroine is Rachel Brady (oh good grief, that last name, that last name!). She's trapped in a lousy marriage, she is virtuous, she is humble, and she's all about Healing The World. Save the people, protect the doggies and babies, la la la. Her beloved father - cue waterworks as she remembers her dear, dear father - was a doctor, and since she can't marry her Daddy, she decides to follow her daddy's best friend and be a nurse instead. Heal the world, save the kiddies, la la la. She saves the life of Jacob Forrester, and their eyes meet and bond as blood gushes from gangrenous limbs and gushing bullet wounds all around them. Amidst the sound of screams of agony as the saw ruthlessly cuts through bones and veins and muscles, our two lovebirds sing the song of amour and pure love forever after.

But she has a husband, remember?

So our lovebirds part. He feels inferior compared to her purity, and she, well, honor, duty, you know how romance heroines are. I am touched. Such noble people, really. Here's me waving my white hankie at them. But ah, soon Evil Hubby will sell Rachel in some auction thing. Jacob or Jake as he is called rescues her, and now Rachel is "his". What to do now?

"Non-stop shagging!" I shriek. "Remember China Beach and Dana Delaney? Shagging!"

Uhm, no. We have two wounded, noble people determined to do the right thing, even if this means playing the same old "(S)He's too good for me" song or the ever popular "Duty, Honor, and A Million Heartaches In The Name Of Virtue".

"Shagging?" I whimper. "No one's shagging tonight?"

No, of course not. Two honest, nice, good people doing the right thing. Two people skirting close to one-dimensional sainthood circling each other as they try to outstarch the other in the moral department.

"Shaggy?" I ask.

Not surprisingly, I soon learn that Wilma Counts write traditional regencies in the past. Apart from Stephanie Laurens, these breed of authors seem to be very lacking in the writing sexual tension department.

No matter. These two people in the story are smart enough, decent enough, and so what if they love wearing their hair tampons a bit too much? Nice people deserve love too. Now be off with you two, Rachel and Jake, and here, take this edition of Karma Sutra with you. I hear that splayed-legged doggie in heat position's kinda cool. In the meantime, it's been fun and very, very pleasant to experience your well-written story, but I'm off to watch me some China Beach reruns on TV. At least those folks there know that in times of war, the best cure for the blues is to shag as if there's no tomorrow (and sometimes there is no tomorrow) rather than to sing the martyr blues. La, la, la.

Rating: 81

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