by Tracy Anne Warren, historical (2006)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-345-48310-3
Eliza Hammond was the mousy companion of her bitter aunt when this aunt croaked and shocked everyone by leaving Eliza lots and lots of money. Now, Eliza's buddy Violet, the Duchess of Raeburn, is going to help her get her fifth - and hopefully, most successful - Season and Violet will enlist the help of her family to give Eliza her makeover. Christopher "Kit" Winter, Violet's brother, is roped in to help. Eliza has a crush on him while he starts seeing her in a new light when she gets the miracle makeover where all you need to turn a woman into a babe is to cut her hair and put her in fancy dresses. What will happen next?
I'm sure you can tell as you have no doubt read this story many times before. At least, I have. Nothing in this story is unexpected. Ms Warren follows the formula right down to the smallest detail. You don't even have to finish the story, just guess at what will happen in this story, and chances are, you'd be right. Still, this is a well-written kind of comfort read, with the hero being a decent kind of familiarity. The other man also gets a decent shot at characterization, although a cynical part of me believes that this is only because the author intends to use this bloke for a sequel. Any character with a penis is always an asset in a romance novel, after all. So many sequels, so many blokes to go around!
But one thing gets on my nerves really badly in this book: the heroine. Now, I understand that at first it is easy to assume that people don't see you as beautiful, especially when you don't think you are beautiful, but at the same time, I believe that any reasonable woman will get the point after a while that people pay attention to her because she is attractive to them. She will look into the mirror and tells herself, "Ooh, fancy that, I am hot!" But not Eliza. She is a one-note greeting card with a message on the front: "Please kill yourself!" I don't know why she is so determined to paint herself as a victim since she's not exactly a tortured idiot with a history of abuse or something, so Eliza is just plain irritating when she keeps insisting even after so long and so many evidences to the contrary that she is not beautiful, never is, never will, and don't you dare lie to her.
She can't wear pretty dresses, she's not beautiful! She can't dance, she's not beautiful! People are only paying attention to her because they pity her! Or they are secretly mocking her behind her back! Or they are Kit's buddies doing him a favor! When she keeps doing this late into the story, I feel like volunteering my services to push her off a balcony so that she will hit her face on every branch of the ugly tree as she plummets to the ground until she becomes as hideous as she imagines herself to be. She is really, really getting on my nerves. My irritation is aggravated when at the same time the author has Kit constantly telling me how beautiful Eliza is, an action that only drives home how much Eliza is in need to just get over herself. Oh, and of course, it is inevitable that I will eventually run into the brick wall that is Eliza's "I won't marry you after we've had sex and you proposed because I know you can't love me!" nonsense.
Eliza is pathetic. She has no sense of humor. Her "personality" in this story is twofold - she's either pining piteously over Kit to the point that her entire existence revolves around him and the funny feelings he evokes in her private parts (seriously, I'm not making this up) or she's putting on a one-woman show of self-degradation. There is nothing more pathetic than a sexually frustrated idiot with no self-esteem, I tell you, especially when this idiot is so passive that all she does is to whine endlessly in this story while hoping that the hero will read her mind and love her for her humorless wet blanket self.
What could have been a dull and utterly predictable read is made supremely annoying by a very passive heroine whose only active actions in the story are self-sabotage or incessant whining. I'm still not sure whether I'd prefer this book to be boring or annoying, but I do know that I am relieved when this book ends and I do not have to even read that wretched heroine's name.
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