Zebra Splendor, $4.99, ISBN 0-8217-6530-2
Historical Romance, 2000
Marcus Sinclair is an actor in Shakespeare’s troupe when he is asked by his friend Lord Richard Langsforth to rescue the object of his infatuation, Lady Judith Ashton, from marriage to a evil pervert. Marcus does so with great success, so successful in fact, that he and Judith start hearing that star-crossed love tune in their head. But Judith’s a pawn in some political game played by that evil pervert, and there’s always this class barrier – no, wait, there’s no class barrier, not much anyway – plus Marcus also hear that dreaded “too good for him” blues in his head. No smooth sailing for these two here.
Now, I love Marcus. He is one rascally rogue whose flair and wit can just sweep any woman off her feet. I keep turning the pages because of him. When he’s in love, I can’t help but to smile. And even when he’s trying hard to be a walking stereotype in his push-her-away-because-she’s-too-good-for-him nonsense, he’s still more than okay in my book. Marcus is a walking heat-magnet; put him on the streets and we women are all in trouble.
The plot is pretty fun, too, with lots of fast-paced tumbles and chases one can expect in a turbulent and bawdy era like Elizabethan England. I’m quite disappointed that the author chooses to focus on the boring stodgy nobles instead of the more colorful citizens lower in the social hierarchy, but it’s a grand ride all the way.
I have two big quibbles though. First, the heroine. Judith never does anything much, if ever anything at all. She is more of an icon in this story, a sad martyr in white with tears rolling down her face, being run around in rings by everyone in this story. Her father, Marcus, the evil villains… practically anyone and everyone has her twisted around their little finger and she plays right into their games.
Some readers would probably love such guileless, oblivious, giving woman whose love for Papa overcomes all logic and human instincts. Can you love a man who is sending you off to a fate worse than death so that he can live happy? Me, I’d be dancing happily the day they pack off these heroines to Antarctica. They’d probably love the suffering though. I keep waiting for Judith to do something other than enduring and waiting, but no luck. Trust me, even at the end, she still waits for the hero.
And the ending, ah yes. Must the author turn in such predictable, direly contrived twist? It only serves to (a) drive home what a passive ninny that Judith wimp is, (b) sabotage Marcus’s character, and (c) irritate me silly.
These two large plot elements keep nagging at my enjoyment, really. I really can’t overlook Judith’s insubstantial presence or the plot that keeps getting more and more calculated in feel as the page turns. But still, I do have a great time reading. Hopefully the next book will have a heroine who will use the brain and legs she is given. And no more inferiority complexes! It’s not as if Marcus is that low in the social hierarchy anyway.