Avon True Romance, $4.99, ISBN 0-06-000552-1
Historical Romance, 2002
Meg Cabot’s straightforward historical for asexual teens wanting to fall in love with their friend’s brothers or brother’s friends is one of the better Avon True Romance entries I’ve read. Not that this is anything to rejoice over, as most of the stories in that line so far aren’t too exciting. The heroine Nicola Sparks is sixteen and acts like a bookish dreamy romantic 16-year old many romance readers love to imagine they were once, and Nicola and the Viscount has enough Emma-ism to satisfy the Jane Austen Fan Club Member every good romance reader imagines herself to be. And we wonder why Meg Cabot is turning out to be a superstar that transcends genres in her bestseller mojo? She not only has the formula down pat, she could teach Bestseller-onomy 101.
Nicola is in love with the God, also known as Lord Sebastian Bartholomew. Her best friend Eleanor Sheridan shares her enthusiasm. Everybody seems to do so, except for Eleanor’s annoying brother Nicholas. When Nicky, an orphan, accepts the Bartholomews’ invitation to stay over, when the God proposes, all of Nicky’s dreams in becoming a child bride are coming true… right? Not if Nicky – the male Nicky – has his way. Not if Nicky – the female one – becomes more and more uneasy about the sense of wrongness of being Sebastian’s child bride. Maybe she’d rather become Nicky, Mrs Nicky, to Nicky. Er, you know what I mean. Nicky loves Nicky. Oh, forget it.
Then it is revealed that they are actually long lost siblings! That’s why they have the same name, and that’s why you can hear Meg Cabot’s shrieks as the ghost of VC Andrews pulls every strand of hair out of poor Ms Cabot’s head.
I made the previous paragraph up. Sorry.
Nicola and the Viscount is a fine story in its own right, and Nicola really acts like a not-too-smart overly romantic and idealistic 16-year old girl. But I’m not too fond of the author making Nicola completely wrong just so that Nicholas can be her prince charming. At least in the movie version Clueless, Cher’s Mr Wrong is gay and ends up being one of her best friends, no hard feelings. Sebastian should be so lucky. And if Nicholas loves Nicola, why can’t he just tell her instead of dropping vague insinuations about Sebastian? Passive-aggressive much, eh, Nicholas?
I like Nicola, but she’s wrong in the end. Oh, and while she is romantic, heaven forbid her heroes to be ugly despite all her talks about love and soul mates! And while she loves train, no railroad track is going to pass her beloved land, oh no! Nicola’s actually more high school cool clique that Ms Cabot will like me to think. Nicholas too oozes contempt and a sense of superiority over everybody. Again, this is the story of two high school cool crowd kids pretending to be dreamy outsiders.
The only character I’m quite fond of is the Milksop. The Mr Wrong. The Dandy Cousin. Sure, he’s Mr Wrong, and he never gets even a chance at Nicola, but at least he isn’t boring and he’s honestly arrogant, unlike Nicholas who’s arrogant while pretending to be all about humility and caring. Same with Sebastian. They’re flawed, but at least they’re interesting.
Maybe one could argue that less superficial bad men vs good men things have no place in a young adult novel. But I wouldn’t mind at all if poor Nicola is allowed to make some choices without having Ms Cabot pull the rug from under Nicola’s feet just to drive home how wrong Nicola really was to choose God. In this case, Nicola doesn’t have any choices in the end but to choose Nicholas. The other choice, telling everybody to go to perdition and walking off into the sunset alone, head held high, is probably never an option to be considered in the first place.