Diamonds And Desire
by Constance Laux, historical (2000)
Signet (Lords Of Desire), $3.99, ISBN 0-451-20092-6

Halfway through Diamonds And Desire, I put down my book and think about things a little. And I decide I really pity the hero Lord Stewart Marsh AKA Shadow the Diamond Thief. He has to fall in love with one of the most irritating heroines I've ever read in a romance, and I wonder if he has to force himself to pucker up and kiss her.

Heroine Aggie O'Day is broke (ho hum) and so to finance her brother's upbringing, she decides to work as a "journalist" in the London Daily Enquirer and Illustrated News Chronicle, a tabloid. What she does is to write bizarrely outrageous tales about anything and everything, and heck, if she can't find any, she'd invent it. But our heroine thinks herself the new Pulitzer prize winner, so she breaks into a room housing a crown reputedly belonging to the mythical King Arthur. For authentic reporting, of course.

She stumbles upon the Shadow, and decides to make him her subject of writing. She thinks it's Stewart, but darn, she needs proof. After all, when Stewart takes off his glasses, he's Shadow, but we all know how hard it is for people to differentiate people with or without glasses. I mean, Clark Kent/Superman did that for a century. So our Aggie decides to stalk and sleuth, and hopefully, frisk Stewart for evidence.

And sleuth she does, with all the grace and deviousness of a pregnant elephant crashing through a bamboo forest. She stumbles, bumbles, stammers, and apologizes all the way to the happy ending, wrecking havoc on the hero's plans to Save The World From Great Conspiracies (or something). And she's loved for it. How Ally McBeal!

And worse, this is one of those heroines who is loved for her incompetency. The "cute" sort. Even her journalism is awful. Her prose is purple, bombastic, and horribly grandiose to the point that I'm sure even tabloid-readers would be hard-pressed to hold down their breakfast. Not that I question her getting hired. There's once this Malay newspaper I've read where they have this "Moral Story of the Week" column where "Mr Anonymous" would write cautionary tales filled with lurid sex and purple prose (let's just say "crashing on the waves and rocks of lust and desire" isn't exclusive only to the English language). Then someone realized people are reading that Moral Stories for anything but moral enlightenment, and pulled the plug on "Mr Anonymous". Pity. I was really getting into the lurid tale of an incestous pair of siblings - will the sister get an abortion now that she is pregnant with her brother's baby? Disgusting, isn't it? My morals are definitely improved. More please.

Oh dear, did I digress or what! Apologies. I'll just say Diamonds And Desire will work wonders for fans of klutzy heroines. The hero is a great guy, by the way, roguish and naughty, and he should demand for a better storyline. Now, I have this hankering to dig out old issues of those "Moral Stories". Excuse me while I go brave the cobwebs of my storeroom.

Rating: 55

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