Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-941-7
Historical Romance, 2008
I know I will have big problems with JoAnn Smith Ainsworth’s medieval romance Out of the Dark when the story opens with our blind heroine Lynnet stumbling about in the cellars of King Henry’s castle. Instead of calling out for help, apparently because she’s familiar with the passageways, Lynnet is talking aloud to herself things like: “If nothing else, I’ll sit under a torch until a servant comes to replace it.” Is she trying to be cute?
At any rate, Lynnet happens to overhear a plot to “destroy the vile Saxon hellspawn”. Even if she has any doubts about whether this is a good or bad plot, the fact that the voices are whiny and nasal may be a giveaway that this is indeed a very bad plot. Naturally, Lynnet tries to flee and the sounds she makes in the process alert the whiny and nasal plotters to her presence. Flee, Lynnet, flee! Because the villains are bumbling types, though, Lynnet manages to avoid them using the classic “I’ll stay here and hide, since the bumbling villains are too inept to find me, until they run after they hear someone else coming” method.
That someone else is Basil of Ipwich, the Sheriff of London. He has come into the cellar hoping to finally nab the person who has been stealing supplies all this while. I know that he’s the hero because, like Lynnet, he just has to talk out loud to himself while he’s supposed to be stealthily investigating his surroundings. I also love how, after discovering Lynnet and realizing that she’s blind, he has to ask her what the fellows in the cellar were doing. Honey, she couldn’t see. How on earth will she know what they were doing? Then I remember that I am reading a story where people tend to speak out loud about what they are doing even if there is no one else to listen to them. Maybe that question isn’t such a dumb one after all.
Lynnet, after being rescued by Basil, thanks him by calling him names and telling him that she doesn’t trust him because she knows that men like him can be bought.
I can go on and on, but really, unless the author intends her story to be a showcase of people behaving stupidly in the first place, this is a really big mistake – on the author’s part, because this is really an embarrassingly spectacular story of stupidity in motion, and on my part, for wasting my time reading right to the end of this thing. The characters’ behaviors don’t improve after the really bad first dozen pages of this story. I am also not fond of the author’s clumsy attempts to break the fourth wall by having the characters pointlessly narrate their actions for the reader’s sake even when it makes more sense for these characters to do things quietly.
On the bright side, the next effort by this author would most likely be better than this one as I can imagine just how hard it must be to top this one in terms of sheer direness of it all.