Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-13510-0
Historical Romance, 2003
I find Ride the Wind Home truly horrible. The heroine Diana Huntley is a walking human barnacle who makes herself face troubles no sane woman would endure just because she wants to make Daddy happy. She is braindead in every definition of the word, she is totally useless, and she spends the entire book either running away, weeping, or clinging to the hero Michael David Lawrence Whatever Whatever Et Cetera like a brand new species of poison ivy.
When she was sixteen, Diana married a Very Nasty Caricature. She met Michael, um, David, whatever when she fled with a puppy she had saved from her new husband’s lecherous friends. He saved her, but her husband took her back and he was heartbroken. After all, that sixteen year old girl was hot hot hot, and our noble hero was all about the Nabokovian life.
Cut to today. She’s a widow. She’s been badly abused by her husband, but she has endured everything in silence. Why? Because Daddy arranged her marriage. She wishes that Daddy will love her more, but the professional victim that she is, she justifies her silence and endurance of her abusive marriage by reasoning that she is keeping Daddy safe from her husband by letting herself be used as a meat punch bag. It is said that she has learned self defense to protect herself, but unless clinging to the hero and wailing piteously is the new form of Taekwondo, I don’t see it.
Our hero is actually a duke who ran away from his dukedom to be a normal guy. Or something. Whatever. He went to the Middle East, got sold to slavery to an Evil Gay Sultan, and when he refused to give out, was thrown to work in the mines. Now he’s back, and when he meets Diana again, it’s love once more.
Diana’s father is arranging her to get married again. Diana doesn’t want to play along. Her suitors’ attractive qualities range from blech to blah. The father is one of those criminally absent-minded types who naturally is venerated by everyone as fathers can never be wrong in romance novels. Instead of she telling her father, “Daddy, you suck, you made my life hell, you are a lousy father, and I will not put up with your nonsense anymore,” she just keeps quiet and tries to escape her suitors by fleeing. And fleeing. And fleeing.
Naturally, a heroine this stupid fails to recognize the hero. And naturally, he doesn’t want to reveal his identity because he wants to be loved for himself, not for the title that he has rejected and doesn’t want. And then the author calls the hero’s cousin evil for wanting the title. Talk about a fox in a manger. If the hero doesn’t want to be the Duke of Smythington, why not just give it away then? All those stupid whining about liberty, fraternity, equality and in the end the hero still has to be a duke. Very hypocritical, that.
The whole creepy Daddy complex and the bewildering motivations of the characters aside, I’m not too enamored of the author’s writing style in this book either. Diana is depicted in a really simplistic nature, as if she isn’t coming off like moronic enough. She’s either happy or sad, no in-between, she’s like a little girl trapped in a woman’s body. She is also a pathetic and passive creature who lets her father make her do things that she really should never let people make her do and when things go wrong after she tries to make her father happy, she’s running off to cry to her boyfriend. There’s a magic subplot thing that only adds to the whole bizarre “Special Heroine Finds Love And Sex!” feel of this book.
On his own, the hero is a pretty okay guy with the usual baggage and enough gallantry to make him an appealing character. That is, if I overlook the author’s inconsistent treatment of his attitude towards his title. The heroine is a spineless mess who’s always weeping or laughing or whining about how obeying Daddy is making her unhappy but she just must, oh, oh, oh! To add to the insult, the author has Diana then reiterating that nobody is controlling her destiny but herself because she is an independent woman. If by destiny the author means Diana spending the rest of her life as the chewing gum passed on from her father to the sole of the hero’s shoe.
The whole inconsistency of characterization, the bewildering mess of a plot, and the ridiculous heroine don’t even add up to some amusing campy read. Ride the Wind Home is so broken that it’s a painful ordeal to finish. The author has written some pleasant books in the past, but this one is too sweet and too badly written to even come close to being a mediocre Christina Kingston book. It’s just a horrible book, period.