Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81197-9
Historical Romance, 2000
Imagine me having a dinner guest who claims to have seen the world far and wide. I point at the vacant seat beside me, and when he sits, I start to ask him about his travels.
“Tell me the sights you’ve seen,” I’ll say.
“Nice. It’s different from here.”
“Yeah. So what’s exactly different?”
“Uhm… different, you know.”
That’s how I feel about Christina Dodd’s Rules of Surrender – it’s like this dinner guest, promising to deliver interesting things but never actually coming close to doing it.
Lady Charlotte Dalrumple, one of the three co-owners of the Distinguished Academy of Governesses, takes up a job by Lady Adorna (last seen in That Scandalous Evening) to train the children of her son in the ways of everything British. Actually what Adorna has in mind is for Charlotte to actually tame her son, Wynter Ruskin, the dad of the two brats.
What happens was that Wynter ran away when he was still a boy, took a wrong turn around the Persian Gulf, and ended up a Bedouin slave. Now he’s back, grown up and most uncivilized. Charlotte has a lot on her hands. But her heart goes pitter-patter at the sight of Wynter sporting an ear-ring and ooh, those Bedouin costume! Pant, pant! And on his part, Wynter is determined to explore the fiery and passionate woman beneath Charlotte’s icy exterior.
Charlotte does a decent The Sound of Music on the kids Leila and Robbie, and I enjoy the way she charms the kids. While Wynter and Charlotte have some great sexual chemistry (when he goes Julius Caesar on her, oh mama mia indeed), he treats her like a small kid. Which becomes amusing because the kids treat Charlotte like an equal – see the irony? But after a while Wynter’s obnoxious “You woman, you come, let me hugga-wugga you!” speech and caveman seduction tactics start to grate.
But the book’s biggest downfall is the lack of details. Is Wynter a Muslim? It is unlikely he fell into the clutches of atheist Bedouins or Muslim Bedouins so tolerant as to let a Christian slave live and marry one of their own. If so, why doesn’t he pray? And how come Wynter and the children display nothing in their behavior that reflect the finer points of the Bedouin culture?
It seems that Rules of Seduction is content to highlight that gee, Bedouins treat their women like chattel, and presumably that is all I will be content with. It’s a shame a fine author like Ms Dodd never even try to highlight the finer points of the Arabic culture or the potentially interesting Arabic-British culture clashes.
It instead offers a half-baked ho-hum seduction story. I can’t help feeling the story is rushed, the author – by sweeping “difficult” aspects of her plot under the rug – has cut too many corners in the story, and ultimately the story lacks credibility. Hence, this story isn’t exactly memorable.