White Lies
by Linda Howard, contemporary (1997, 1988 reissue)
MIRA, $5.50, ISBN 1-55166-274-4

You know, I can be lazy and just cut and paste the review of Christina Dodd's Lost In Your Arms here, change the names, alter the references to contemporary settings, and that's it. All About Romance did a review of Ms Dodd's book and mentions its uncanny similarities to this book. When I happened to chance upon this book in the library, hey, what have I to lose but a few hours?

Verdict? I won't say that Ms Dodd has plagiarized Linda Howard. If anything, Ms Dodd is just doing what authors like Lisa Kleypas, Jane Goodger, and all those photocopy Regency authors have done: take on a theme done by others before, and do a remake. If the plot development of Lost In Your Arms is frighteningly similar to that in White Lies, well, Ms Dodd did the same thing with her Sabrina wannabe In My Wildest Dreams.

But I'm not sure what possessed Ms Dodd to name her hero Stephen when the hero of White Lies is named Steve. Is she trying to be funny?

Back to White Lies. Eh. I have a strange repulsion-fascination thing going with White Lies. I like Ms Dodd's almost-photocopied version better. Hey, don't throw stones at me! Can you blame me if I find the hero's annoying alpha-mule behavior more acceptable if he's a man unfamiliar with modern plumbing? And Ms Howard does the doormat heroine so well, and cranks up the manipulative factor in her story in an even more transparent way than Ms Dodd, I find myself resisting the whole manipulation even as my eyes almost bled trying to hold back tears.

I resent that, because I know this story is deliberately set out in a way that is determined to make me cry, damn the heroine's intelligence, damn common sense, and damn the hero's humanity. Steve - or whoever he is - is a mule, but heroine Jay Granger is the flattest, ugliest, most hideous doormat ever. But this story made me cry. Damn.

Jay Granger is a doormat. When word comes that her ex-husband - or maybe not, maybe it's another guy, you're supposed to read and find out - is badly injured in an explosion, Jay drops everything to nurse him. When he wakes up, he acts like a jerk, just what happens when Brutus marries Olive Oyl. But Jay doesn't care. She loves him, reasonable or not, and she loves him so much, she can't stop loving him even after he has driven her over the edge and she runs away weeping, because she loves him and she will come crawling back. Jay is the melodramatic "suffering in the name of love/beat me blue but I will keep loving you (even if you hate me and kick me to death), patiently weeping until you come to your senses" sort of bad soap opera heroines.

So what can I say? Readers less averse to sobbing to a heroine's self-imposed crucification will like this one. At least White Lies, for a Linda Howard reprint, isn't as vile as some I could mention (because I don't want people flaming me again like the last time I called Sarah's Child crap - sometimes zealous fans scare me, especially those with perfect grammar and punctuation spouting enough rhetorics to drive a KKK member to convert to Catholicism).

But enough about me. Let's get back to White Lies, er... uh... hey, anyone here got pictures of that yummy Tasmanian actor Simon Baker, who plays Nick Fallon in The Guardian? I just caught that show for the first time, and man, what am I missing? Hugh Jackman will have to take a backseat for a while, my drool is now reserved for Simon Baker. Uh, what? Steve, hero of White Lies? Who cares. Excuse me, Simon Baker, people. Simon Baker. Drool.

Rating: 75

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