The Adventurer
by Jaclyn Reding, historical (2002)
Signet, $6.50, ISBN 0-451-20740-8

This book is weird. I know this is a kidnap romance, but the story takes it time to getting there, meandering through long and scenic and totally unnecessary backstories and sidetrips and all, that I actually wonder at some point whether the author knows what she is going to write about.

Isabella Drayton has a supposedly magic crystal she wears around her neck, and the stranger who gave it to her told her that the crystal will show her "the real MacAoidh". The Real McOink actually refers to Calum McKay, also called the Adventurer (after his ship Adventurer) on account of his dashing success in raiding British prison ships. While Calumity Boyo here is brooding at home, his crew will kidnap Yaddabella.

But this is after a long, long, long account of Yaddabella's French holiday, where she meets the revisionized Bonny Prince Charlie (instead of the flaming hot-tempered twit he was said to be, he's now a charming darling) and King Louis the Guillotined (poor guy, he's just in love with his mistress, it's all that Antoinette woman's fault that France is screwed up, you know) and more. These things never really have anything with do with the plot. Did somebody say "padding"?

The hero and the heroine meet only what seems like half the book has progressed. Even then, it's the strangest kidnap story I've ever seen. The Happy Meal crew doesn't hate Yaddabella or anything, they just want to show her and the Magic Crystal of Everlasting Sunshine and Pattycakes to Calumity Boyo. And they know even before these two do that Boyo and Yaddabella are Meant to Be Shagging. The first hand fellow, some guy named M'Cuick, plays the Mary Sue matchmaker dude.

And that is between lots and lots of bizarre backstories of secondary characters. For example, I know more about M'Cuick's story than either of the main characters', and I do know that M'Cuick will not be having any recurring role in the next book (the author's next book is a contemporary). So what gives? Verra verra bizarre, if I may say so myself.

And why is everybody speaking in Scottish dialect except for the hero, who's supposed to be some Real Scots guy? What, real Scots guy speak in perfect Queen's English, is that it? Ms Reding must be an English propagandist - grab her, you Scots apologists, grab her!

And in a time when the English and the Scots are as friendly as Buckingham Palace and their darling celebrity ex-butler in the 1740s/1750s, I have a Bizarro Moment when our kidnap victim heroine bakes the hero a birthday cake. Yes, a birthday cake, of all things. And then there is the bewildering ending that arouses more questions than closure...

I don't know. I must confess there is a perverse fascination that causes me to keep turning the pages, if only to see how more disoriented and bizarre Ms Reding's story will become, and I'm happy to say that I am not disappointed at all. The Adventurer is up there with poppy dreams and other chemically induced high: there is some perverse fun to seeing how blurry and strange things can get, but too much may cause agonizing aftereffects. Now that we've all had our fun, Ms Reding better get down to business and write something more cohesive. I mean, look at Ben "B Arf" Affleck - he got into rehab and came out stuck to the hips of that overexposed skank J "Jones To Da Ho Ho Ho" Lo to the point that he played a hilariously unconvincing street guy in her new video Jenny Around, er, On The Block. With his bad toupee and hangdog face, he looks more like Burt Reynolds, Jr than P Diddy's rival. There's a cautionary tale in there somewhere. Ms Reding, take note, please.

Rating: 60

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