The Truest Heart
by Samantha James, historical (2001)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-80588-X

Maybe it's just me, but I find Samantha James' prose getting more and more girly, for the want of a better word. In The Truest Heart, the whole story takes on this feel, as if it is written from a perspective of a child-woman. The author also has an irritating tendency to use "..." as a way to create drama (ie "She couldn't do anything else... but to wait" ad nauseum). All in all, it is the technical aspects of TTH that give me problems in concentrating on the story, more than the story itself.

The story itself is nothing special - it is about an amnesiac hero. King John, nasty king, bad bad king, takes Sir Gareth's son hostage so that Gareth will do his bidding: kill the kids of the Crown traitor Lord Ellis of Westerbrook. But before Gareth can find the daughter Gillian, he gets into an, uh, accident that caused him to turn up bloody on Gillian's hideyhole doorstep. What a way to track down people, eh?

Yes, what happens next is the same old "Strip 'im naked, hee hee, nurse him back to health" good heroine antics. I must also commend this author's transparent, ridiculous attempts at giving Gillian her first feel-out session. We have Gareth shiverin' and illin' in bed, naked of course, and he wouldn't drink from Gilly's spoon. Oh, poor dear. Gilly has an idea - she will sip the water and give Gareth a mouth-to-mouth rehydration thing (remember, if she doesn't lose her oral virginity, he will die, so please don't hate her). Needless to say, Gareth is soon feeling much happier. But oh, he is still illin'. Gilly sighs, strips down to her skimpies, and hugs Gareth. Remember, she is doing this to save a man's life.

Geez, all this nonsense just to cop a feel. And I roll up my eyes when Gilly, after Gareth's hands predictably go all gitchy-gitchy all over her ya-ya's, starts berating herself because now he will think her some sort of slut. Romance heroines. What I wouldn't give to make them drink some Ribena.

Gareth remembers only his name, and our heroine soon become really good friends with him. But what happens when Gareth remembers his mission? (Hint: forced marriage by decree of the Bad Bad King John, lots of squealing and tears, almost forced seduction, et cetera.)

The Truest Heart is not a bad story, once the sugary sweet amnesiac-Ken-loves-medieval-Barbie nonsense is done and I get instead Bad Tempered Ken and Tearful Martyr Barbie in their place. Gillian, who starts out a complete Bambi (wide-eyed, clueless, asexual, naive, and dim), gets more interesting when she actually has a reason to be angry and starts throwing temper tantrums. Gareth is dull and too sweet as the memory-free Prince Charming, and gets a personality when he starts acting like a bad-tempered mule. The author avoids many potential misunderstanding traps, creating instead a rather real conflict where the leads' past keep intruding in the way of happiness. Although Samantha James did put in an annoying "I'm sure he loves her and not me" misunderstanding towards the end to create a rather silly separation (thankfully short) between the two main characters. Nothing new or groundbreaking in this story, but adequate entertainment.

But I really find it distracting every time a "..." pops up. If it is not "..." it is " - " (as in "No - I -"). It is a personal peeve of mine, but I find it very irritating to read so many sentences ending with "..." that is preceded by a question ("What happens now? She will just have to wait and see..." or something of this vein) passed off as moments of drama or tension. There are better ways to do that than to resort to punctuation tricks that seems better suited in juvenile prose ala Cassie Edwards.

Logically, The Truest Heart is a good read. But cranky ol' me keep gritting my teeth whenever I see those dot-dot-dots that the fun I have is pretty much dimmed somewhat. But I wouldn't say I have an awful time - far from it. There's nothing here that isn't created to please those who know what they want: something fun but not radically new or different.

Rating: 76

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