Zebra Splendor, $4.99, ISBN 0-8217-6574-4
Historical Romance, 2000
It’s quite spooky but this is the second book I’ve read during these few weeks that features a pickpocket heroine rising up the social hierarchy Cinderella-style. Like No Other, however, really shows its first-book traits: awkward humor, contrived misunderstandings, and a heroine who, in an attempt to be Eliza Doolittle-meets-Wonder Woman, has what seemed like every predefined romance heroine virtues. Except competency and decisiveness.
Kate is the pickpocket in question, but she has a heart of gold, you know. She knows it’s so wrong to steal, and sometimes she goes hungry for the sake of the orphan kiddies on the streets. I’m sure she loves animals too. There, our collective conscience can now rest easy. One day she pickpockets the wrong fella, and she is then sent to the house of Lord Alec Breckridge. Breckridge then takes her under his wing to be his pet project – turning Ms Pickpocket into a sterling citizen of the British Isles.
But when the bad guy on the streets start bullying Kate’s buddies, Kate panics and does something really thoughtless and impulsive, hence driving the story into some murky misunderstandings and obligatory grand rescue.
Like No Other could have been a great romance between classes or something in that vein, but it is riddled with too many problems. Most are technical in nature which I’m sure could be polished up if the editor has done a better job. The humor is at times too flippant, too glib. Most of the time the story seems to rely on Kate’s indecisive, over-emotional, and insecure nature to draw the laughs. It works the first few times, but after that I start wondering if Kate is the heroine or the victim here.
The characterizations could be tighter too. Kate is just annoying as a heroine who is not only spinelessly selfless and all-giving, she also cannot seem to think without letting a million emotions swamp her mental faculties. She falls in love with the hero almost right away, thus robbing the story almost immediately of any potential romantic tension. Needless to say, she is no match for the hero. Ever seen a dreamy, naive woman staring doe-eyed at a man whose intention after bedding her is to make her his mistress?
It’s like seeing Bambi being tricked into the slaughterhouse.
I have no idea how a pickpocket who has spent her life on the streets and in orphanages be so insecure, indecisive, and incompetent. Even Oliver Twist gets his innocence ripped away savagely by midway of his story. But Kate, starry-eyed Kate, her life seems to be one sweet, dreamy G-rated version of a grade-school play of Oliver!
Alec is less problematic, but his character too rings wooden at times due to his predictable behavior and thought processes.
Like No Other could have been fun and grand, it’s just too bad that the execution of the story is a bit way off. What’s with all those clingy, teary-eyed, overemotional Bambi heroines anyway?