Dream Of Me/Believe In Me
by Josie Litton, historical (2001)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58436-7

I can't help feeling I should mention at least a little of how intrigued I was of Bantam's teaser hyping of Maura Seger by not revealing that it is her who is rejuvenating her career as Josie Litton. Apparently no one knows that Josie Litton is Maura Seger until this book is this close to publication. You'd think this is the new Star Wars script or something.

Okay, the whole hype went above my head. I cared though. I called up Hildy the other day and asked her, "Hildy, you know Maura Seger?"

Hildy answers, "Er... heard of her, but I can check my storeroom if you like to borrow some. I think I have read one or two books by her. Some Veil titles, I think. Oh, Jenny, did you see last week's The Amazing Race? I'm still mad that my favorite team, the Grandparents, lost!"

"Aargh, me too! I actually cried when everyone, including the obnoxious Frankenstein Monster and his wife Not-much-upthere-ette, give them an ovation. What a classy team, not like those team Grundo pipsqueaks, I wish they are the team that is lost in Africa this week!"

"I hate Team Guido! They are so annoying, smug, and irritating. Now, the Team Closet Gay Boy Lawyers, on the other hand, yummy."

"Oh please, those Esquire Lawyers don't even have personalities, much less one in the closet. They're not gay, they're cardboards. I like the Frat Bastards better, especially when they help Ms Jugs and her Mother..."

Well, I did try to care.

But hey, for two books for the price of one, does anyone care? It's just bonus that these books are well-written, even if they are completely devoid of even a subatomic particle of originality. Fans of Viking captive romances and arrange marriage thingies, enjoy. You know the protocol.

Dream Of Me is the captive romance thing. Wolf Hakonson and his men let themselves be captured by Saxon lord Hawk. Actually, they are just waiting for the chance to kidnap Lady Cymbra, who is beautiful, they say, that Hawk has to keep her away from men. Cymbra, however, just has to be a healer/busybody type who walks into the dungeons filled with mad, angry Vikings to give them blankets and all. Before you say, "Hey, isn't that familiar?" Wolf and his men have kidnapped Cymbra and we are all hey-hoing to Viking shores.

Of course, Cymbra doesn't mind marrying Wolf because he makes her throb between her thighs and her nipples stand out stiff in the bath... or something like that. Never mind that Wolf threatens to kill her brother if she doesn't marry him - she marries him anyway, and everybody conveniently forgets that Cymbra is kidnapped and blackmailed into marrying Wolf. Even Cymbra.

Because Viking men are not the bad guys here, no. After all, we non-Viking women are supposed to experience ovarian volcanic explosions when it comes to Viking studs. The Viking women are the bitches here, and they are the ones to cause trouble for poor innocent Cymbra who just wants to give everybody warm blankies for the night.

Catfight, catfight, meeeoooww! Put in the obligatory sword clash and all towards the end, and it's all dreams of monotone and deja vu here. Well-written pedestrian fun for everybody.

Next, Believe In Me, a rather more paranormal romance compared to its Sister Typical above, but it's equally barren of originality. Hawk, the brother above, who has lost Cymbra, is now sitting at home composing sad ballads about how lovely his sister is. Yes, the Freudian bells are ringing all across town, ding dong bell. Lady Krysta is the woman who is to wed Hawk in some marriage of convenience affair. Wonder if they will name their son (any doubt it will be a son?) Porcupine. No, wait, I think Stallion is hotter. Wolf, Hawk, and Wolf's brother Dragon (whose book is out next month)... all we need now is a Stallion, yes? If it's a girl we can call her Clasha after Cymbra and Krysta.

Sorry, I digress. Krysta wants to find out how to make Hawk love her, so she pretends not to be a blonde and makes her entrance as a servant. She gets unmasked soon enough, and now, oh, can Hawk love her now? Oh, oh, oh. (She should have just worn her sister-in-law's dress or something, bet Hawk will really paw her silly then. After all, when Hawk sees her at first, his first thought is: she's not as pretty as Cymbra. I rest my case.) Toss in Krysta's secret and that of her servants, and of course, more Evil Women out to ruin our Happy Twosome's marriage, and everything is in the perfect shade of monotone again.

Of course, it is still well written enough to be readable and entertaining.

But these two books, hyped as the greatest new thing when they are actually faithful retellings of some romance novel urban legends, really could use some boost of innovation, seriously. Take away the gold cover and the hype, and all I get in my hands is a severe case of over-hyped-josie-mia.

Rating: 79

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