Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5206-7
Historical Romance, 2004
For some reason, Leisure decides to market this book as a historical romance with an erotic edge. Carnal Gift actually isn’t, it’s an old-school epic style story reminiscent of romance novels in the 1980’s without the rape and macho jerk hero antics overdrive. There are some love scenes here but they aren’t at the sensuality level that the title of this book may suggest.
Brighid Ni Maelsechniall is Irish, which naturally means that she is on the side of good. The author demonstrates this by bombarding me with plenty of saccharine insurance commercial moments in which apparently the Irish are one big happy family, not caring that they are poor because they have each other, until them bloody evil English bastards come and cause trouble. While conducting a secret mass, Brighid and her fellow Good Irish People are set upon by the evil English nobleman of that area. The Evil English wants to rape Brighid but his American guest Jamie Blakewell intervenes.
Get that? America is good! Ireland is good! England is bad!
Jamie insists that he wants Brighid too and Sheff the Evil Englishman is sporting enough to let him at her. Sheff is still evil though, even if he’s sporting. Jamie, however, doesn’t rape Brighid as much as he pretends to rape her and proves the act by cutting his thumb and letting blood smear the sheets. This gallantry doesn’t earn Jamie the undying gratitude of Brighid, who is a stereotypical hot-headed dumbass hellion. Her brothers save her but injures Jamie, Jamie is nursed by Brighid, and Sheff is hot on their tails. Jamie asks Brighid and her brothers to come with him to America where George W Bush will give them all tax cuts, but the good Irish refuse. They will never leave Ireland! They will die in Ireland! Ireland! Ireland! IRELAND!
Maybe I am not patriotic enough but I think Brighid and Company are being too stupid for words here. What’s the point, screaming and dying and more, just to make a stupid statement? It is not as if they are part of some strong guerrilla rebels out to topple the English, they are just oppressed people and here is a gallant American offering them a chance at a better life. Why not just take that chance?
I ask this question because this story is this long due to Brighid and Company insisting on remaining in Ireland. Jamie will have to do his best to woo Brighid and persuade her to love him back. This book also won’t stand up to scrutiny in other areas, such as the state of one-dimensional flatness plaguing every character in this book. The English are of course evil to the core. The Irish are stout, strong, and good. Americans are also noble, good, and egalitarian. Jamie has freed his slaves (they work for him instead), he believes in Native American affirmative action, he is a gentleman, and I keep waiting for him to show off his Nelson Mandela Thanks You commemoration plate to Brighid but he never does, oh well. On the other hand, Brighid comes off as a nerve-grating impetuous and often too-silly hoyden who could really use some discretion before she acts or speaks.
On the bright side, the author knows how to move her story when she has to and the last quarter of the book is riveting. But for the most part, Carnal Gift is too one-dimensional in terms of drama and character to have much depths to make it memorable.