Sonnet, $6.50, ISBN 0-671-77452-2
Historical Romance, 2000
Welcome to the dysfunctional family show. That may as well be the title of this soap opera, populated with some of the most nasty relatives I’ve ever read in a book. The miserable, gloomy, harpy Aunt, the two debauched cousin brothers, the lying and deceitful (not to mention lachrymose) harlot of a cousin sister, and the bossy and spiteful aunt. Did I miss anyone out? Wouldn’t do to leave an empty seat on The Jerry Springer Show.
What’s a nasty family without a doormat, right? Meet our heroine, Veronica Strake, the nicest, meekest, most agreeable rug you can ever find in 1820 England. She is so nice that she caters to these dysfunctional people even as she seethes and suffers inside.
These people are all gathered to welcome home Max, Veronica’s favorite cousin (yes, kissing cousins in this story) and her one true love. Max has been banished after our predictably slutty cousin Marcia tried to compromise herself with him long ago (when having caught them in the act, while expressing shock, Veronica isn’t above telling me, the reader, that even at such a young age, Max has great hairy muscular legs – yummy). Now, Max is back to help Veronica handle the bankrupt estate her father left her. And oh, maybe make a few more babies to add to the already sad family. Greedy relatives cause problems, of course, and when one or two big misunderstandings find their way into this story, Dearest Max becomes really a chore on both the senses and the blood pressure.
Veronica is the most irritating rug I’ve ever read, and Max makes the perfect accessory. Two nice people tiptoeing around so as to not offend their Regency British sensibilities by being forthright and telling the sad whiny lot to get lost. It’s like watching someone beating his head against the wall again and again – irritating. Dear Vee may be admired by Max for her “spirit and courage”, but the woman can’t do a thing aside from being an overdressed Cinderella and sulking like the misguided martyr she is. And Max and Vee never hesitate to take these unpleasant relatives’ words to heart, even though they know their relatives are gutter material, because what’s a dysfunctional, incestous family story without as much big misunderstanding drama as possible?
Dearest Max should be called Dysfunctional Me instead, because that’s what it is: nasty people trampling on two people so proper they can’t pee-pee without going pardon me. Reading this one is an unpleasant experience, and I fear my blood pressure may never recover.