Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21029-8
Historical Romance, 2004
On a lark, I typed sashalord.com into my browser, rather innocently thinking that this is the URL of the author’s website. It isn’t. Let’s just say that it is a site where you have to pay to move past the front page. I’m only grateful that the local Internet haunt I visit while I’m working on this review had a pop-up stopper, because I could get into trouble if half of those pop-ups show up on the screen.
What does all this have to do with Sasha Lord’s latest book In a Wild Wood. Nothing and everything. I don’t what to think of this author. If I’m brutally honest, I’d say she’s a cosmic joke, the embodiment of everything one laughs about when one talks about the ultimate bodice-ripper parody. But a quick glance at the Amazon sales rank shows that she’s selling much better than many other authors out there. People are buying this author’s book and enjoying all the “…as she watched him, her eyes crept slowly down his body, to the bulge between his legs that pulsed and grew as she watched it” going-ons between the pages. Incidentally, how does a bulge pulse? Is it like ET’s finger when it does that finger-wiggling thing? Can I see a red glow through the hero’s pants or what?
This book is horrific. The writing is a magnificent lurid shade of purple and the characters are imbeciles. But what strikes me about this book is how brutal it is but at the same time, the author writes as if she’s creating the perfect love story without apparently entertaining any self-awareness about how psychotic her characters are being. This book is like a cannibal movie starring the cast of My Little Pony and Friends.
The story is like this: once upon a time our too-young, barely-legal heroine Matalia McTaver, daughter of the braindead couple of Under the Wild Sky, stumbles upon our hero Brogan O’Bannon when she saves our tied-up hero from a villain with the aid of her pack of wolves. Yes, our heroine can speak to animals. Apparently, only stupid ones though, because Matalia has not one ounce of common sense in her entire Barbie doll body. She decides to use our tied-up hero for her sex education. I know we are talking about the medieval times where a young lady can’t exactly join the cheerleader squad and sleep with the football players but come on, this is ridiculous. But all amusement flies out the window when the result is a rape scene that brings to mind the old “whack me all over, brutalize me everywhere, but ah, I have a powerful orgasm so it’s love” philosophy those heroines of old bodice-rippers adhere like lemmings adhere to the route down to the cliff.
Brogan is naturally charmed by our heroine’s physical beauty. I mean, how can a guy resist “a thick skirt of blue wool that fit closely to her body until it flared around her hips below a hammered girdle… her hair was blacker than the darkest cave, and curled in riotous ringlets down past her waist”? The result is a truly provocative evocation of true desire from our hero:
“Ach, mi lass, untie me and I will give you liquid more precious than me blood.”
That statement is ten thousand ways of wrong and I don’t know whether to laugh hysterically at it or screech for the editor’s head for letting that statement past the editorial process.
Brogan decides to marry Matalia because his benevolent father announces that he will make an heir out of the first twin brother that marries and produce an heir first. The villain here is Brogan’s twin, Xanthier and no wonder he’s evil, the poor thing, what with him saddled with a name like Xanthier. Then again, is it any worse than the reject hobbit name Brogan is stuck with? The ensuing story deals with Matalia and Brogan screaming at each other before becoming lovey-dovey again once he sexually assaults her and she gets the best orgasm in her life. Repeat and rinse. Naturally, Xanthier and his wife Isodora are skanky psychos. Ms Lord doesn’t take in account how stupid the old king comes off as if he has pit brother against brother when one brother is so obviously “good” while the other one is wacko. “Good” here is used strictly in comparison to Xanthier, by the way, because in this book, a skilful ability to rape our heroine into docility is one of the best traits a hero can have.
Ms Lord has no idea what train wrecks her characters are. She has no clue that she’s promoting a brutal rapist with psychotic-obsessive tendencies and shrill braindead tarmagant as a couple to root for. She seems to be subscribing very seriously to the Rosemary Rogers newsletters about how to write a love scene (“Always begin with the heroine screaming ‘No’…”). The characters act really deviantly stupid just for the sake of contrived conflicts and everyone’s a cardboard character that’s either “good” or “evil” and even then, the definitions of “good” and “evil” are debatable at best here. Everyone’s a nutcase here at the end of the day and Brogan and Matalia’s abrupt transformation from Charles Heston and Missus to the Brady Couple only seals it for me: these people are all headcases that should be locked up for good.
In a Wild Wood is a wonderful treasury of bad writing, unintentionally hilarious “sexy” lines, and enough budding protrusions and pulsing profusions to make any love scene comes off like a leaking, wheezing spacecraft made of jello crashing-squishing into wet swampland (and no, Ms Lord, you can’t use “wet swampland” in the next book). If the reader take heed of the high amount of skanky villainy lurking among the unintentional bloopers galore here, she or he may have a great time laughing at Ms Lord’s expense. Oh, serious fans of bodice-rippers will be in for a treat too. After all, nothing tops a cartoon alpha male who assumes that his, uh, “liquid” is precious and the delivery of said liquid, by any means necessary, is his greatest gift to women everywhere.