by Karen Robards, historical (2002)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 0-7434-1060-2

If you're an aspiring author who has the misfortune to experience an accident that renders you totally amnesiac, and you need to remember how exactly to do a Kidnap Sex Fantasy 101 thing, all you need to do is to plonk down $7.99 for Karen Robards' Irresistible. The vibrant late half of the story is worth a read, to be honest, but the first half is an excruciatingly clichéd blow-by-blow account of how to get your clothes off and have sex with your kidnapper, romance novel style.

By romance novel style, I don't mean those erotica fantasies where you shag the evil robber that breaks into your house while you are sleeping naked and together the both of you become the new Bonnie and Clyde thing, no no no. What I mean is the hero Hugh Battancourt ("Hugh, Bad And Cocked"? Uh, don't answer that please.) mistaking our heroine Claire Banning for some trampy spy for the French carrying some Important Documents Filled with Secrets. So we have four, or is it five chapters of our heroine running away from our hero and his men, along the way tripping, falling, getting lost, hyperventilating, and did I mention tripping? If this is a movie, no doubt the heroine will get her clothes snagged in rocks and pesky twigs and get more naked as the minutes pass.

So then here we are, at the ship filled with mean, evil piratey scummies. Our hero stakes his claim on our heroine, and moves her to his cabin. There, she must take off her clothes while snarling at him to turn away. He must peek. She gets his gun and warns him off, only to lose the gun before you can blink. The hero's valet/matey treats her like a princess all the while nudging our hero not-too-discreetly - "Go marry her! She's sweet!" - and our hero growls, does the coercive sex thing, and stands in the wind, his Fabio hair wildly blowing in the wild winds as his white shirt rips open, exposing those abs that grate all the cheese in Switzerland. Or wherever it is that has a lot of cheese and maybe carrots too.

"Give me a break," I mutter to myself.

Oh, Claire. Married to a brute, needing sexual healing but too virtuous to push her hands down there and muddy her waters, protesting her innocence and loyalty to Mamma England, and all the while oohing and ogling at our hero's skintight breeches. I once saw the Milli Vanilli duo in a taped concert on TV, and they were wearing these skin-tight white spandex pants that reveal everything. I mean everything - you can which direction they dress, if you know what I mean. It's scary, and it's not exactly a vision I want to see in my head while I'm reading a romance novel.

When they reach France and these two guys realize that they have just misunderstood each other during the sea voyage, things become more interesting. Not interesting as in original, but at least the whole monotonous "Tramp! Don't trust you! Tramp!" spat and heavy pettings give way to our twosome working together to foil French froggies while surviving matchmaking biddies' machinations. By "working together", I mean she too dingbatty to be of use and he having to save the day, naturally. Then they go back to England, where Claire's evil husband creates a "complex" situation, complex, that is, if you're those "virtuous" heroines who, bound by vows and all that crap, don't know whether to run away with our hero or stay in misery with husband. Our hero's secret is also revealed, and our heroine flounces off. Hmmph!

Yes, this story has adultery, although frankly, I think readers who are offended by the fact that this heroine is cheating on her abusive husband should really sit back and reexamine their priorities in life. This is a very predictable, uncomplicated story that seems to have stepped out of a time warp (think 1980s) and later glued to a more conventional and more contemporary historical setting. Maybe Irresistible is one of those half-finished historicals gathering dust in Ms Robards' drawer when she was contracted to write contemporaries and now only is she polishing it a little. That will explain this strange chimera of 1980s kidnap no-trust-bonk-you first half and the more contemporary feel of the later half.

Either way, both halves don't form anything more than an okay but unmemorable read.

Rating: 74

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