With All My Heart
by Barbara Dawson Smith, historical (2002)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-98220-8

This book may as well be titled With All My Clichés. This author, who seems to scoop up a RITA every other year with her rent-a-cliché books, inspires join-the-dotters everywhere to believe that they too can win lots of RITAs and inspire mediocrity everywhere. Someone, please stop this madness.

Anne Neville, your average spinster who is bootylicious while believing she is plain zzzzzz, wants to save her friend David from a duel with cad Lord Joshua Kenyon (I blame Mary Jo Putney - it's all her fault that these join-a-dotters are now abusing the Kenyon name for their tortured-mortured moronoheroes - yes, her fault!). David, you see, is mad that Joshie broke up his engagement with David's sister. So Anne's masterplan is to spirit David away to Manchester where David becomes the new drag Kylie Minogue impersonator. No, not that. Smart, plain, bluestocking spinster and harbinger of boredom-induced coma Anna Banana here decides to konk David out, wears the ever handy Turn Me Into A Boy breeches and shirts, and takes David's place.

Joshie decamps, but hark, look, somebody shoots Anna Banana! (No, not Joshie.) Anna Banana crumples, and Joshie does the bedside healing thing - the only thing interesting here is the reversal of gender in the bedside pokie thing, but that's it - and they decide to discover the identity of the Davie-killer-wannabe, and they fall in love.

Joshie is a rake of nth order, but look, ma, he is also a soldier! (Guess which war.) And look, he huddles up naked in bed and do the shiver-shiver "I have PSTD" Apocalypse Now Redux Reduxed impersonation! Ooh.

And of course, to solve this mystery, Anna Banana and Joshie pose as - get this - a pair of people in love! Bet you never see that one coming, huh, RITA judges?

Guess why Joshie broke up with David's sister. What, she's actually a man in drag, you say? Wrong! Stop watching The Crying Game so much and read some romance novels.

Oh, and before I forget, dotty old biddies! Yes, biddies! Matchmaker biddies! Cute matchmaker biddies!

If you tie me to a goalpost and kick soccer balls at my face while reading aloud this book to me, I don't think I can still stay awake. This book's overpowering fumes of noxious deja vu toxicity can knock the strongest into a coma. Know your threshold for clichés written in a most uninspired manner, and tread the grounds carefully. (RITA judges naturally are immune to the toxic fumes of the eau de cliché - they can run headlong for all I care.)

Rating: 50

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