Taming The Duke
by Jackie Manning, historical (2001)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29162-0

Is Jackie Manning a real person? Halfway through Taming The Duke, I wonder, because this story feels as if it has been vomitted out from the Harlequin Historical Instant Romance Novel Word Processor: all the trite and overused plot conventions tossed together to make a "historical romance". I can easily picture the smiling-evilly editor cackling with glee as she presses the "Instant Regency Historical" button, the "Author Name Generator" button, and the "Bad Title Word-Randomizer" button and yippee! Taming The Duke.

Okay, my apologies to Jackie Manning if she's real and she has labored over this book for ages. I'm sorry you have to write such badly predictable stories. Really.

Virtuous, long-suffering super-martyr heroine Alicia Spencer is a spinster who was once compromised and is now living in misunderstood notoriety in a reclusive manner where she heals horses and is kind and compassionate. That's not her butt - it's the kitchen sink under her skirts. And I think that's a doormat she is wearing over her head.

Our hero is Dalton Warfield, who, since now that The Horse Whisperer is made into a movie and made every women in the audience go "Eek, eek, eek! So sad!" (I go "Eeek!" too - at the sight of Robert "I'm still a Romeo, ya?" Redford's wizened, leathery hand touching Kristin Scott Thomas' smooth pale and young skin), decides to take his "mentally injured" horse to Alicia for some therapy. This story must be conjured by the same editor of Susan Wiggs' The Horsemaster's Daughter who has probably watched that movie 3,000 times (or read in a magazine that these sort of stories sell like hot cakes).

Alicia has to help Dalton. Why? Her father is in heavy debts (here we go again) and now, to save Daddy (DaddyNMe4eva!!!) she must help Dalton! Oh, oh, oh! Besides, poor horsey! Oh, oh, oh! But as Dalton and Alicia spark, watch out, here comes his Evil Mother! And that Jealous Other Woman! Alicia, of course, can't give them the finger. That kitchen sink in her skirt is bogging her spine down. Oh, oh, oh!

The plot moves the way the formula dictates it to be. It's beyond autopilot - I think one can plot this story out blindfolded and thrust into a tiny chamber of utter darkness. There's even a Big Misunderstanding at the late stages of this story to cap off our climax of deja vu. I can't wait. To get out, that is.

Okay, okay, I should be kind and find some redeeming value to this story. Er, Alicia and that horse have great chemistry. Too bad she isn't a horse herself, because they would make a beautiful love story.

Rating: 42

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