Dell, $6.50, ISBN 0-440-23602-9
Historical Romance, 2001
Big misunderstandings perpetuated by whiny, petulant, and oafish characters – now that’s one thing. Misunderstandings perpetuated by sweet, saccharine Care Bears-ish characters, now that’s nauseating. It’s like seeing Ernie and Bert have a big misunderstanding that drives Ernie crying to his mother’s place. That’s not right, it feels as if it is against some cosmic rule or something. And in this context, Lilies on the Lake is a natural aberration.
On the surface, it sounds like a decent story. Portia “Pip” Merriem is a beautiful Egyptologist in the making when her companion goes into labor on the Nile itself. There must be a brilliant joke in here somewhere. Anyway, the mother dies but the baby survives, and Portia decides to keep baby Peter (again, I think there’s a brilliant in-joke here too) as her foster brat. But to do that, she has to think of her reputation too. Why not marry John Henry Lowell, the man who helps her deliver the baby and her ex?
See, once James and Pip had a thing going, until Portia drives him away with some cruel words about his lowly station in life compared to hers (he’s a farmer’s son). So now both have baggage – all those pent-up anger about he-said, she-said misunderstandings in that department. But will they talk about that? Nope. All those pent-up anger and frustrations have to explode somehow, so don your lead raincoat, people. And of course, since both aren’t exactly the best of friends at the moment, both would also snipe and insult each other over Peter’s welfare and everything else that gets dragged into the mess. At the same time, John tells himself – and me – that he loves this woman forever since time eternal, bla bla bla, but you know what? He can’t tell her this too. No, he must “test” Pip to see if she loves him for him and not his money. So he pretends to be a steward and shack them up in some steward hut while pretending to oversee the renovation of his “employer”‘s house. And of course, Pip just has to find out after a blissful moment of truce – and PG-rated religious-tinted sex – and the chamber pot hits the ceiling and splatter its content all over the place.
At this point I have a raging headache. Pip and John are supposed to be Care Bears. They talk like Care Bears. They coo like Care Bears, and they are also good, religious people. So why are they so lousy in communication? It doesn’t seem right at all. It is as if someone has slotted in the carnage war scenes from Saving Private Ryan in the middle of an episode of 7th Heaven. All this feels so wrong. Next the author will tell me that Ernie and Bert will never kiss and make-up, and Ernie will now live with Oscar the Grouch. Just not right.
Anyway, Lilies on the Lake. It could use a lot less petulant bratty spats and foot stompings and annoying, inept mind games from both Pip and John. In fact, I’d say it could use a complete overhaul altogether. This lake here (sorry, bad pun) is eutrophic with way too much silly, childish stuff for its own good.