In Search Of Amanda
by Marilyn Grall, historical (1998)
New Concepts Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-891020-32-3

This e-book's not bad. Really, it's pretty readable. My only complain is that, well, like Ms Grall's debut Taming The Lion, it has a very dated feel to it. Forced seduction, screaming heroines that cries No no no even as they shiver in desire at the forceful hero's touch, and many lecherous men eyeing the heroine while the Evil Other Woman schemes to get the Hero... it's like reading a book from the 1980s.

Amanda Labreaux is a woman oblivious to the injustices and cruelties of slavery in her estate. She runs her estates while her useless scheming - and one-dimensional - brother plots toget rid of her. One day the brother and an evil buddy concocts a plan: since Amanda's half-Cajun, her dark skin could be passed off as a mulatto, hence they murdered a slave woman, foisted her papers on Amanda, and sold her off. Luckily for Amanda, she is bought by Jackson Carlyle, who is as gorgeous as they come. From here commences the screamfest of Don't touch me! I'm a virgin lady of the Southern genteelity... oh God, Jackson, do that again tableau.

Ms Grall depicts a lot of unsavory going-ons that are horrifying, especially the way slaves are treated as nothing better than farm animals, to be used and abused. Amanda's fate is horrifying, but what I find really jarring is Amanda's continuous petulance and spoilt-primadonna act throughout the e-book, even after her captivity. She stupidly flaunts authority and acts so impulsively - watch her bungle her many hastily-concocted and ill-planned escape attempts - that I can't blame the slavers if they throw her into the crocodile-infested rivers. And her physical attraction to her slaver... that's rather awkwardly done. Would a woman, stripped and pawed by men at the auction block, ever notice in the midst of her panic that Jackson is the most handsome man she'd ever seen? Amanda did. And Amanda's continued defiance at Jackson's advances for about two sentences before experiencing multiple orgasms... well, that's not only irritating to read (it makes her look immature, shrieky, and a slave to her baser instincts), it's also unbelievable.

Jackson's a man of his times, who thinks nothing of bedding his slaves - or any woman for that matter - and making "Fancy" (Amanda's slave name) his mistress. But he occassionally crosses the line from tender romance hero to brutal seducer. There's a particularly unsavory love scene that took place after he had Amanda whipped for escaping - it reeks of S&M (not that I'm against S&M, but considering that the author is writing against slavery, this theme is out of place, don't you think?). Worse, all I can think of is ouch ouch ouch (on Amanda's part).

Throw in the Evil Other Woman and my eyes roll upwards. Good heavens, I thought these women died alongside the rape romances. Put in fat leery lecherous men who want Amanda's body (Jackson's different - he looks good) and I wonder if I'm in a time warp. And I gave a Yucks when I read about Jackson insulting the Evil Other Woman's promiscuity and comparing her to Amanda's purity - why would a female author perpetuate such double standards among her own sex is a thing I could ponder for a while.

Despite everything, however, I find myself reading ISOA without stopping. I'm never bored, despite experiencing minor irritation about the flaws I've mentioned, and never once did I feel distracted by the TV, radio, anything. And despite the unsavoriness of the events that lead to them, the love scenes are very, very sensual.

Not a bad book, really. I don't think I'd give up on e-books yet.

Rating: 70

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