Pride And Prudence
by Malia Martin, historical (2002)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81518-4

You know, Malia Martin wrote a flawed but interesting story in her debut Her Norman Conquerer. It is really sad to see her writing drek, by-the-book, and completely forgettable books today such as Pride And Prudence. Any similarities to Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice, by the way, is a figment of your imagination - time to take a vacation, that sort of thing.

Prudence Farnsworth is a widow. She married a Sugar Daddy who had been so fatherly to her, and now she is living off her late hubby's monies. Prudence Nicole Smith makes up for her ways by being so kind to kids, dotty people in that smalltown place she holes up in, and hires servants who mistake "exaggerated theatrics" for "color". Did I mention that she is also "Wolf", a notorious smuggler abetted by the simple, happy dimwits in her town? Don't ask me how she does it. I don't think I will ever discover a logical explanation for this.

Of course, who cares about logic when the story is engaging, right? But this story is a chore and as tedium sets in, I start to pick apart the book out of spite.

The hero, James Ashley, is a former war hero - oh Napoleon, you must be romance novel heroes' biggest stepping stone - whose ship is sunk by the Wolf. No, don't ask. Now he wants the Wolf hung, and he will find the Wolf, while he dallies with this lovely, whiny "virtuous" Prudence Nicole Smith on the side. Oops.

There's also a get-him-drugged-oops-I'm-seduced scene. There's a compromised-caught-in-the-act-by-simpletons (oh god, call the social services, people!) scene that leads to ding-dong-banns. This leads to the annoying the-government-or-me tantrums, the-simpletons-or-me stomps and pouts, and other jolly fun stuff.

Am I too harsh to call the townspeople simpletons? Maybe Walt Disney happy Dopey the Dwarf clones will be a more appropriate description... if these morons don't hang wolf insignias on their doors while James, whom they know is on a Wolf-hunting rampage, is around. (Then again, James doesn't get it. There are "wolves" everywhere, but he just doesn't get it. Some war hero.)

One good thing is the heroine's lusty nature. Prudence Nicole Smith loves sex. She wants it a lot, and she wants James' handle to heaven a lot. Handle to heaven, by the way, is Prudence Nicole Smith's way to call James' thing. I didn't make it up. But the colorful term brings to mind those old frontier water pumps, where you have to grab the handle and push down several times for water to gush out. Unless I have been getting the wrong idea about biology, I don't think pushing handles to heaven up and down the vertical axis of the pump the way to get more biological fluids out. Shouldn't it be... maybe these people do it in a new way. I don't know. Maybe they're aliens. Maybe Fox Mulder and Dana Scully ran off to grand adventures after Season 4 and the dire remainder of The X-Files - especially that Baby Rubbish - never happened.

Maybe Pride And Prudence should be retitled A Brief History Of All The Overused Plot Devices In Romance Novels.

Rating: 65

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