Come Near Me
by Kasey Michaels, historical (2000)
Warner, $6.50, ISBN 0-446-60583-2

As much as I hate to knock down a Brand New and Original Romance Story With An Interesting Plot Twist, I must say Kasey Michaels' latest makes me green around the gills. Not that it's a bad book. It's just too sweet. There is way too much saccharine for my blood sugar tolerance. And I should say that Come Near Me is not the laugh-a-minute romance like the other two previous Kasey Michaels romances for Warner. CNM is a dead serious romance about a marriage gone awry.

When the story starts, Adam Dagenham, the Marquis of Daventry, and Charlotte "Sherry" Victor Dagenham are already a year married. However, nothing is well in Martrimonysville - Adam has found Sherry in a damningly compromising position with his "friend" Richard Brimley, and now, he treats her like dirt. Oh dear. When Sherry finally snaps and dumps him like any sane woman would, he realizes he still loves her and wooes her back.

But there's more to the story than the usual Dumb moron abuses and wins back wifey yarn - but I really shouldn't reveal it here as it is a great plot twist that elevates this book high from being yet another generic Big Misunderstanding story.

But since The Great Plot Twist takes place only in the final one-third of the story, I am made to go through the two people bickering alternated with flashbacks of their courtship one year back. And the flashback is what gives me the hives. They're disgustingly sweet. The moment our two lovebirds meet, it's sickening to see the immediate shooting of stars out of their eyes. Two beautiful people besotted with each other's physical beauty. Lots of lyrical waxing of Hallmark greeting card sentiments fly faster than popcorns on hot stove, ranging from cloying I will love him always! I've never loved anyone before as much as you! to really cringe-worthy You are so beautiful flatteries in all their diabetic variations. They love each other so much that they forget to find out more of each other apart that they are Beautiful and Perfect Outside.

Works well in Seventeen, but I'm way too old and cynical for such Pollyanna love that smacks more of infatuation than anything else.

They waste no time exchanging vows of forever and ever amen. But since they hardly know each other, any wonder that Adam turns out to be one sick control freak, going all hot and bothered over Sherry with other men, including his own brother? And Sherry has the personality of wet paint - too naive, too trusting, and she romanticizes and makes too much excuses for her man. Adam and Sherry are bland, bland, bland.

Their relationship never comes to life, in fact. I'm told they're in love ad nauseum by every one of their acquaintances. There's this irritating man called Chollie who fancies himself the jester from As You Like It or something - he keeps telling me and Sherry that "Once Adam loves, it's forever" - yeah right. Control freak and forever - it's creepy to hear these two terms in one sentence. Maybe Chollie should just marry Adam instead, or at least move to Greece, for Chollie's constant championing of Adam does seem to border on something beyond mere admiration.

In a blink of an eye Adam realizes that he's dung to treat his wife so cold, etc, etc, and sets to woo her back. Sherry doesn't put up much of a fight, so at the end of the book they are as goo-goo eyes as they were a year ago, with nothing learned and nothing gained. Oh boy. Young people. Hmmph.

Hence, it's no wonder I find the villian much more smart, sexy, and exciting. And believe me, the villian is a villian with a capital V. He's the one with the brains, manipulating our two main characters like the puppets they were. Think of Billy Zane doing the charming scum antics in Demon Knight and that's the villian. I almost wish for Sherry to end up with him, were Sherry not as dull as faded wallpaper and hence not worthy of the Illustrious Evil that is the villian.

If this story wants to show how bland goodie-woodiness and virtue can be in face of evil, it succeeds. Disturbing, really. Hence, CNM gets 98 for the villian, 66 for everything else.

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