Tea For Two
by Cathy Maxwell and Liz Carlyle, historical (2002)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-4581-3

I have a throbbing headache. Cathy Maxwell's novella makes me rather ill, and Liz Carlyle finishes the job and leaves me groaning with my cheek on the table. Tea For Two, which is more like Petty Cash for Two Authors actually, is a two-in-one thing. Not that it's anything new: both authors seem to live and breathe in predictable overdone plot thingies just for this occasion. I feel so special already.

Cathy Maxwell's In A Moonlit Garden is about idiots in love, "in love" here subject to various open interpretations. When only a few pages before where Colonel Michael Sanson is trying his best not to ventilate when the woman he swears he loves forever and ever brushes her kittens against his arm, he's then lusting after another woman, Jocelyn, whose father he has come to rob just to Prove His Love to that kitten-brushing Other Woman.

Okay, you want me to say that slower?

Jocelyn is different, ie she's a doormat, she is selfless, she is... oh, I feel ill. Let's just move on to the hero. He is... never mind, moving on. These two spark, and they do the deed. Then he realizes that Josie here is the Real Deal (she, naturally, has been realizing it even before the Deed, after all, romance heroines don't do silly, thoughtless premarital sex unless it's True Love) and zips up his pants and make an honest woman out of Jocelyn. Besides, the Other Woman is such a cold icy bitch anyway.

So why then will he want to swear love and all to the Other Bitch? Likewise, why should Josie and her family of braindead marriage-mad women (no doubt they will all get their starring roles in future romance novels) need to ask Thomas to pretend to be her new boyfriend to drive an obviously unworthy ex jealous?

Morons, all of them. Worse, fickle-minded morons. If this is a story about Bart Simpson falling in love with Booby Mary, I'll buy it. But it's supposed to be a romance. See this? Yeah, this? Now get lost.

Liz Carlyle is next with Hunting Season. Gee, I thought Pocket dropped her or something, since she seems to just go poof after what seems like every new book out every month in the last two years. It's nice to know that she's still with the Pocket.

But I find myself hunting for a thesaurus. Or a red pen so that I can cut out all the unnecessary verbiage diarrhea in this short (but feels very long, an eternity in fact) novella.

People don't just have long legs, they have "impossibly long legs" (what, ten feet long, twenty, thirty?). The hero doesn't just touch a sleeping young girl's hair, he "brush away a lock of Henriette's hair with his long, ungloved hand." Frankly, a hero with long hands and impossibly long legs... er, I dunno. I have never felt any sexual attraction to giraffes and I don't intend to start now. But hey, to each her own.

One or two of such phrases in a page is fine. But when every freaking other phrase is long hands, blinding panic, alluring innocence, and other arch, purplish unnecessary verbiage, I get a pounding headache. Try having to do mental editing of both the story and hubby in the background singing Frank Sinatra on the karaoke, I dare you, and see if you don't feel like screaming.

It doesn't help that the story is stale cheese. Christian Villiers, slut, rake, et cetera - he's the hero, by the way - wants to seduce innocent, innocent, innocent, innocent Elise Middleton whose father drove his innocent, innocent, innocent sister to suicide.

So what happens next? Elise, innocent, innocent, innocent, gives Christian pure and cleansing sex, and all his sins are washed away with each priapric gushing of his manly goo, and oh, how lovely innocence is! All the good women in this story are innocent, innocent, innocent, with no idea that their men are waiting to stick the blade into their back. Not that they care. They are innocent, innocent, innocent.

So yeah, innocence saves the day, washes away a hero's sins and accountability, and all is well at the end of the day. Who needs to go to confessions anymore? Just poke a virgin, and you will be forgiven of all your sins. Gee, who would've thought innocence can be so exciting?

Rating: 50

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