Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58415-4
Historical Romance, 2002
Kristen Kyle may have hung up her futuristic swashbuckling mantle, but her taste for swashbuckling fun lives on in her historical romances for Bantam. If you like this kind of thing, buy this book before Ms Kyle is forced to write romantic suspense to pay the bills.
Not that Promise of Gold is perfect. The heroine suffers a case of a very obvious dumbing down for the sake of rescue the damsel scenarios, and there are several elements of the story that doesn’t gel. Still, it’s a pretty fun treasure-hunting adventure through the tropical heat of Cuba for this swashbuckling-romance-story-starved reader.
Derek Carlisle, an adventurer viscount, is in Cuba to negotiate a purchase of a journal from a Cuban kingpin. The journal holds a vital clue to the sunken galley of the Nuestra Señora de la Augustina, which is rumored to contain treasures. Not that Derek wants the money, of course, he just wants the treasure for academic purposes. What better and more noble than to take Spanish treasure and keep them in an English museum, right? Englishmen, they are so amusingly deluded that they have no idea how pompous and pathetic they sound sometimes, I tell you.
While chit-chatting, the gong or whatever they use in Cuba sounds and voila, in sashays a sexy flamenco dancer, La Perla. Only Derek notices her discreet attempt to steal a key on Cuban Kingpin Dude’s body. Later, Derek will interrupt her B&E fun, and in retaliation, she tries to run off with the journal. But she will be caught, of course. Because she’s a heroine. And heroines in romance novels aren’t allowed to be smart, as Rosa Constanca Wright (La Perla’s real name) will soon prove with devastating accuracy.
If Derek can get bossy, I can understand why. Every time he lets Rosa out of his sight, she gets into some trouble. Natural disaster or man-made calamities, Rosa is the Calamity Jane, the bullseye in the dartboard for every conceivable dangers and troubles. But at least she isn’t shrill when she is carping on the man for rescuing her. A big plus.
Derek and Rosa are fun, and there are dangers aplenty to hide the fact that the romance is pretty much standard stuff. Okay, maybe “hide” isn’t the proper word to use here, try “lighten the deadening effect”. It’s not bad, really, although I wish for once Rosa becomes Derek’s comrade rather than burden. Come on, a streetwise, burglar heroine – and Ms Kyle has to give me this putz? Waste, a big waste, really.
And Rosa’s three elderly godfathers, the United Colors of Benetton Stooges that are an Irishmen, a Hispanic, and an American, provide comic relief. But they also serve to dumb down Rosa’s character, an unfortunate side effect of having three bumbling coots breathing down her neck and growling at people staring at her bosom all the time. See, to the Benetton Stooges think it’s okay that Rosa dress in skimpy dresses to dance in a room full of horny men, but it’s not okay for a man to have lustful thoughts about Rosa here. I’m still trying to figure that one out, really.
Where this story could’ve swung from vine to vine in glorious monkey love and heartstopping danger and excitement, Kristen Kyle instead chooses to bring out the Tarzan in our hero at the expense of our heroine’s credibility. It’s quite sad, really. No matter how fun this story could’ve been, Rosa remains just that – a burden and never a comrade in arms. Oh, for a swashbuckling kickass heroine.