Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-449-00637-9
Historical Romance, 2002
Gaelen Foley must be Mary Jo Putney’s biggest fan. Her last book, The Duke has Dearly Beloved overtones. Now, in Lord of Fire, the author is channeling Dancing on the Wind. Hey, even the hero’s name is Lucien. Lucien Knight, that is. But unlike that book, this one is a clumsy story that starts off unbelievably over the top and ends with a whimper.
Lucien Knight is a spy who has enough hang-ups to make himself a noose. See, he is a spy, a good one, one of the spies at the higher end of the British Intelligence hierarchy. In his spare time, he seduces his twin brother’s girlfriends. Why? It’s for twin brother Damien’s own good, of course. That and no women must come between them. Where is a shrink when you need one?
Anyway, this is how Lucien meets the heroine Alice Montague. Lucien has seduced Lady Caro, Damien’s girlfriend, and when Damien dumps her, Lucien finds himself stuck with her. When Caro heads back to the country at her sister-in-law’s insistence, Lucien goes along. This sister-in-law is Alice, the goody-two-shoes who has been taking care of Caro’s kid all this while.
Alice is PO’ed when Caro doesn’t show up ASAP. Look, that kid is sick, why couldn’t Caro – the mother – do the right thing for once? She storms to this place where Lucien is holding sex orgies in the name of information gathering – James Bond must be sheer livid with envy – and gets mistaken as a harlot.
Lucien almost rapes Alice, but stops just in time. Still, Alice will start thinking about him day and especially nights after this incident. This is what happens when a woman has no life and no thoughts about anything but saving the world.
The story then plunges into some espionage thing involving everybody’s favorite French spy that becomes more and more unbelievable as the story progresses. Lucien suspects that Alice is a spy sent to seduce him. Yeah, a goody-two-shoes shrewish frigid seductress spy – where do they get such a brilliant idea of a Mata Hari? Alice, on the other end, displays this psychotic impulse of hers to save the world, be good, sacrifice her needs, hell, she doesn’t have needs, she lives to serve. Why she doesn’t get herself hired at the local tavern is beyond me. She’d entertain the clients with the multiple orgasms she get each time she tend to everybody’s needs.
I can talk about the contrived coincidences and the escalation of action and intrigue that don’t make much sense, but I don’t think I’m up to an extra bottle of Prozac. Let’s discuss the characters instead.
It’s very down-to-earth, the relationship development. He think she’s a slut, she has never been kissed or pawed so ooh, she lusts and lusts and lusts, he tells me his mother is a slut, they kiss, he tells me that his mother is a whore, they lust some more, he tells me that his mother is a – oh for goodness sake, Lucien’s mother is not a slut, she’s just a moron when it comes to birth control! He can go hang himself if his mother’s inability to use a diaphragm kills you him much. Where am I?
How does Lucian know that Alice is real and pure, and not the slut thing like his mother? Well, Alice, after a tender moment, will blubber and tell him her sad story, all about dead kiddies and nasty people and other jolly stuff romance heroines love to have as “emotional development”. Lucien, who hitherto has treated her like a blow-up doll, suddenly turns into Prince Gallant and tells her to come to him whenever she needs anything. Aww, the tears to my eye! Nothing like contrived pop-psychology taking over slow but well-written relationship development to warm my cockles and make me feel like rolling my eyes upwards.
I do like the idea of having orgies to save the world though. Seriously, I really like it. Where do I sign up?