Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81518-4
Historical Romance, 2002
You know, Malia Martin wrote a flawed but interesting story in her debut effort Her Norman Conquerer. It is really sad to see her writing formulaic and completely forgettable books such as Pride and Prudence. Any similarities to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by the way, is a figment of your imagination – time to take a vacation, that sort of thing.
Prudence Farnsworth is a widow. She married a Sugar Daddy who had been so fatherly to her, and now she is living off her late hubby’s monies. Prudence Nicole Smith makes up for her ways by being so kind to kids, dotty people in that small town place she holes up in, and hires servants who mistake “exaggerated theatrics” for “color”. Did I mention that she is also Wolf, a notorious smuggler abetted by the simple, happy dimwits in her town? Don’t ask me how she does it. I don’t think I will ever discover a logical explanation for this.
Of course, who cares about logic when the story is engaging, right? But this story is a chore and as tedium sets in, I start to pick apart the book out of spite.
The hero, James Ashley, is a former war hero – Napoleon must be romance novel heroes’ biggest stepping stone – whose ship is sunk by the Wolf. No, don’t ask. Now he wants the Wolf hung, and he will find the cretin, but in the meantime, he dallies with this lovely, whiny “virtuous” Prudence Nicole Smith on the side. Oops.
There’s also a get-him-drugged-oops-I’m-seduced scene. There’s a compromised-caught-in-the-act-by-simpletons (oh god, call the social services, someone) scene that leads to ding-dong-banns. This leads to the annoying the-government-or-me tantrums, the-simpletons-or-me stomps and pouts, and other jolly fun stuff.
Am I too harsh to call the townspeople simpletons? Maybe Dopey the Dwarf clones will be a more appropriate description… but really, these morons hang wolf insignias on their doors while James, whom they know is on a Wolf-hunting rampage, is running around. Then again, James doesn’t get it. There are “wolves” everywhere, but he just doesn’t get it. Some smart guy indeed.
One good thing is the heroine’s lusty nature. Prudence Nicole Smith loves sex. She wants it a lot, and she wants James’s handle to heaven a lot. Handle to heaven, by the way, is her way to call James’s thingie, I didn’t make it up. But the colorful term brings to mind those old frontier water pumps, where you have to crank the handle down several times for water to gush out. Unless I have been getting the wrong idea about biology, shouldn’t it be… maybe these people do it in a new way. I don’t know. Maybe they’re aliens.
Maybe Pride and Prudence should be retitled A Brief History of All the Overused Plot Devices in Romance Novels.