Avon True Romance, $4.99, ISBN 0-06-001220-X
Historical Romance, 2003
Seventeen-year old Josephine Best has man troubles. Personally, I’m in awe of any seventeen-year old lady who complains that too many men are courting her, but there you go. Josephine Best has two suitors, both soldiers on medical leave to boot. The War between the States is raging, but Miss Jo here has time to open a hair salon and makes all the women’s hair in Whittaker, Michigan pretty, pretty, pretty. She has no time for men. If she’s going to grow up to be a romance heroine, she’s almost there.
Adam Morgan is said to be a Casanova, that cheeky boy, although he’s more of a fake, because he doesn’t act like a Casanova at all here. He and she are actually childhood enemies, a memorable kiddie foreplay being he and her brother slathering her with honey – in a G-rated this book is for kiddies way, naturally – and tying her to a tree to attract the bees. Maybe if you like, you can read a lot of sexually repressed Freudian thing in that one, but I think these kids are just being innocent and nice types. They probably spend their wedding night wearing cute Barney PJs and play patty cakes all night long.
But Adam doesn’t really appear in the story until Miss Jo is sure that another soldier, George Brooks, is thinking of courting her. Naturally, being honorable types that they are, Miss Jo and Adam agonize over whether to commit kissy-kissy semi-adultery thingies or stick to the honorable and ignore their platonic not-really sexual chemistry thing. Meanwhile, Miss Jo’s friend’s impending marriage may be in trouble, and that’s the B-plot of the story.
Filled with prepubescent concepts of puppy love and jealousies, Josephine and the Soldier is a pretty cute read and a more light-hearted book compared to Ms Jenkins’ related book Belle and the Beau (which deals with slavery). Unfortunately, George turns out to be a non-issue at best and the resolution to these silly kiddies’ playing at grown-up games of amour is too convenient even for a young adult novel. Starring characters who are sensible and level-headed in everything other than matters of the heart, Josephine and the Soldier is a fun way to spend a few hours. As a bonus, if you stare at the crotch of the hero in the cover long enough, you may soon think you’re seeing one enormous salami stuffed down his pants. Too bad the Giant Salami of Love doesn’t make any cameo appearance in this story – it may just liven up things a bit.