by Lindsay Randall, historical/paranormal (2008)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-505-52765-3

Phantom is one of those books that make me shudder and wonder whether the author has even read what she is writing. The heroine, Robyn Sinclair, is easily one of the most grotesque heroines ever when it comes to the brainpower department, and her rampant stupidity fuels this story all the way to the farthest reaches of the universe and back again. Factor in the author's overwrought purple prose and this book becomes nearly unreadable.

Our hero, Dax, has long left behind a life that he barely remembers in order to brood and sigh over the fact that some inner darkness inside him, called the Phantom, is threatening to take over him. No, the Phantom doesn't sing, in case you're wondering. When he was twelve, he was introduced to a six-year old girl, Robyn, who was his betrothed. Alas, disaster happened shortly after and these two were separated. Which is good, if you ask me, or this book will have to be shelved under "special interests", appealing to only a section of society that live in isolated farm lands and have to make do with sheep until their ten-year old cousin from the Ozarks arrives to be their wife.

Cut to today, when Robyn, older but for some reason dumber than ever, decides that she will never marry some man she finds disgusting. She is pining for that boy she met years ago for, oh, all of fifteen minutes so you can really tell that this is true love, folks. Can you feel the magic moonbeam and shiny sparkles shooting out from her eyes to enthrall you with her sexy innocence? So, in order to avoid being married, Robyn has a plan. You know what they say - when a historical romance heroine comes up with a plan on her own, you have better run for the bunkers and say your prayers.

Any way, Robyn decides that she will hire an actor to engage in a compromising clinch with her so that she will be discovered and therefore be ruined forever and ever. It doesn't work. She gets beaten instead but the plan is still on. Robyn decides that she now has to run away. So what she does is to take her time to load the carriage with what seems like all her wardrobe while she writes a letter to some maiden aunt of hers. That may make sense, the plan, if the maiden aunt in question is the guerrilla leader in some South American country, armed to the teeth with machine guns and more and backed by a bunch of bloodthirsty soldiers, but no, we are really talking about a maiden aunt here. After reaching her destination, she decides that maybe she doesn't need all those things so she's sending them back.

As for Dax, he factors into the heroine's absolutely ridiculous attempt at a plan by - what else? - rescuing her. Naturally, she is far from grateful despite learning that he is the same man who has ignited the red hot fires in her six-year old loins all those years ago. She believes that he is a smuggler, so now she loathes him. And to show her loathing, she does amazing things like running deeper into a dark network of caves without any torch or matches or even a clue where she is going in order to escape the hero.

Let's just say that Robyn is a heroine who should die ten million times over for being a complete, utter, total, and absolute waste of carbon material, oxygen, and everyone's time.

As for Dax, he is an emo, constantly brooding and singing the blues about how he is not good for the walking sunshine that is Robyn. He would be boring in another book, but here, Robyn makes him come off like a genius.

The prose of this author is described as "lush" according to the publicity material, and I agree if being a "lush" is what it takes for me to make my way through this book without suffering from a stroke. The author writes in such an overwrought manner that I often feel as if I'm reading some kind of horrible parody of a historical romance. In the prologue alone, we have a twelve-year old boy going, "Perhaps my father does not hate and fear me as much as I have believed all these years." Or, even better, "Sometimes I feel as though I have come from nothing and - and am headed for nothing. It is as though I have no past and will never have a future." A twelve-year old boy! Everyone here, be they twelve or fifty, speak as if they are reading aloud from a particularly overwrought and melodramatic Gothic novel. The end effect may be amusing if the prose and the heroine combined haven't made me feel as if I'm being sledgehammered from all sides by the incessant awfulness of this terrible, terrible book.

On the bright side, I managed to finish Phantom without having blood gushing out from every orifice in my head like I feared. I hope I won't read another book as dire as this one anytime soon, though, because I'd like to retain my faith in humanity a little while longer.

Rating: 26

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