Dearest Beloved
by Christine Holden, historical (2001)
Jove, $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13228-4

In a bad historical romance, a "smart, brainy, visionary" heroine is usually the one scooping in the sewers for a used brain to plug into her vacuum skull cavity. Dearest Beloved's dearest heroine Arielle Stanford will need a shovel so anyone with a spare please lend it to her. The hero Hunter Braxton is the one wading in the sewers nearby looking for his own brain too.

Arielle wants to be a doctor. This means she's one of those innocent, unbelievably girly dingbats who squint like a doe staring at the headlights of a bus when the hero rips open his breeches and flashes that thing at her. This is Regency times, where the IQ of romance novel characters is mostly at an all-time low, so she can't be a doctor! Unless she gets someone with a thing, that thing, to sponsor her into a medical school.

She writes to Hunter.

Hunter writes back.

They fall in love. But this is the Regency era, where a man expects his woman to spread her legs, make babies, and matchmake their daughters when she is in her dotty years. And Arielle knows she wants to be a doctor so badly because... because... lemme check... hmmm... I guess it's just because. Well, we all have dreams, so I understand there. But Arielle, she can't marry Hunter, right?

They marry. They marry because Arielle's father blackmails Hunter into marrying (he is a bastard rich dude with broad shoulders, perfect for bankrupt Evil Daddy to sell his daughter to), and Hunter decides that the doe-eyed, girly-twit Arielle must be in cahoots with that Evil Daddy to snare him in marriage. Bitch! BEEEEEYYYATCH!

Then the story descends into ridiculous melodrama. Remember how Lassie always performs incredible feats to save his/her/whatever stupid, selfish master who always got them both in the mess in the first place? Arielle performs a DIY appendectomy on Hunter - wow! (Well, could be worse - could be a tracheotomy). I'm surprised with her brainpower that Hunter didn't die an agonizing death. An agonizing death could have saved this book.

Dearest Beloved is a miasma of misunderstandings, annoying characters, and ridiculous melodrama. Third rate romance at all its glory, viva la mediocrity.

Rating: 45

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