Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4987-2
Historical Romance, 2002
I haven’t read Katherine Greyle’s debut indie-press book Oracle that I heard rave reviews about, but if she is as good as they say she is, then I must say Ms Greyle is wasting her time writing “funny” historical romances. The humor in Miss Woodley’s Experiment is so forced that a single dust particle can cause its whole foundation to snap and collapse. Comedy here takes priority to the point that the main characters and all secondary characters do bizarre, outlandishly stupid things and say bewildering arch and unfunny things just to wring laughter out of me.
Miss Woodbrain’s experiment in question is kissing guys. Yes, that’s right. Caroline Woodbrain wants to be kissed and she wants to know about the sex thing and she wants to know them all now. Like a berserk android robot hell-bent on a kiss-and-maw rampage, she mechanically trudges forth – stomp, clank, stomp, clank – to kiss a guy named Harry. After all, she’s going to marry Harry. So kiss, kiss, kiss!
But yucks, Harry’s kisses are so wet! I mean, it’s obvious, right? When you kiss and you put your tongue in that other fellow’s mouth and wiggle it around, you are not supposed to wet your other fellow. Exchanging cooties is fine, but kisses must be dry. Tell me when someone has discovered a way to passionately dry kiss. Or is it something only android robots know? Heaven knows, cooties may short-circuit the wiring in Woodbrain’s head.
Fleeing Harry’s wet, slimy kisses, Woodbrain climbs up a tree. Oh, Ms Greyle is so killing me. Please finish the job and end my misery. She is discovered by Geoffrey Rathburn when she ends up in his bedroom, and he has to marry ASAP to provide some dowry for his sister’s upcoming marriage. He doesn’t like marrying the other rich heiresses of the Ton because they are all after his title. How disgusting. I guess he going after their money is okay, because he’s doing it for a good cause – giving his sister money that she doesn’t even want. That ranks up there with World Peace and Miss World.
Naturally, they are attracted to each other. Stupid attracts stupid like two powerful and oppositely charged magnets. The rest of the story details Woodbrain’s increasing nutcase antics as she stumbles, breaks, stammers, blabbers, destroys, and rips apart things and people in a rampage of slapstick (un)funnies. Geoffrey, being a romance hero, has the privilege of being a bit more restrained than his “intelligent, willful, spunky” woman, so he’s just one carriage less than the train wreck that is Woodbrain. Even when Woodbrain finally decides to take responsibilities for her disasters, she only does things that even more stupid than everything she has ever done in this story – the Statue of Liberty of all stupidity – and plunges the whole story into a Rescue the Stoopids adventure.
In the end, Miss Woodley’s Experiment is stupidity passed off as humorous. Woodbrain never takes any responsibility for her actions, so it’s also unreasonable indulgence glorified as cute and something romantic. As this story spirals into the black hole of intelligence-free suckfest that it never reemerges from, I have to say that vacuum cleaners have less suckiness than it.