St Martin’s Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-98283-6
Historical Romance, 2002
I can see why Shades of Honor gets good reviews. It is very cleanly written, technically polished, and all. I can also see why it wins the Golden Heart Award. But oh dear, it thrives on clichés. It has everybody’s favorite – the Wooden Spoon Heroine and the Dead Bitch Wife. An ex-Union soldier who gets the PTSD tics-and-shakes whenever we want some “Ooh! Angst!” moments. A magic daughter-heroine bonding thing. Horses, don’t forget horses that run wild and free! And of course, doing it all for Daddy, ah, we must not forget that one.
Our hero Radford Grayson comes home to his small town of Fredonia with his silent, shy daughter Rebecca. Poor Radford! His slut wife “refused to sacrifice” her ballerina career to be a good mother. Of course, why he can’t sacrifice his career to be a good father is beyond the scope of this romance novel. Then her nanny abused good Rebecca, and Rebecca is so shy, so tormented, so liable to wail “Don’t leave me, day-dee!” at the drop of the coin. She’s so becoming a romance heroine, I tell you. She has the Electra complex down pat.
Of course, sexy town sluts are all, well, sluts. Let Radford return home to find real love with a real woman, the low-maintenance kind who will be happy to wear rags and pop out brats year after year because she lives only to make Daddy and hubby happy. Meet Tomboy Horse Whisperer Mega Nanny Super Heroine Evelyn Tucker. I think the politically correct word to use to describe Evelyn is “honorable”, but I’ll stick with “cliché”.
They see each other and wham! She is dreaming of him naked and he her. How did that come about? But she is obligated to marry his brother Kyle to make Daddy happy. Along the way, he compares her to his slut wife and learns how his slut wife come up lacking in all departments. Isn’t it lovely that we still have to crap on other women to make our heroine come off smelling like roses? Evelyn bonds with horses and teaches Rebecca to come out of her shell, as Mariah Carey wails, “Now spread your wings and begin to fly, for you have become a butterfly!” I take out my water gun and vow to zap to death any Care Bear that threatens to pop out of the pages of this book and zap me with belly beams of love.
Okay, okay, let’s be serious. This book isn’t bad at all. But at the same time, it is so familiar and typical, with very little to distinguish itself from other stories of its kind. Factor in the transparent put down of the Other Woman (the Other Man got off nicely though, because he’s a man and he gets a sequel, probably), the nauseating and rather too-sweet horse, freedom, and let a pure loyal daughter/wife free your soul thingies, and characters who try so hard to loyal and nice, and this is a book that is too sweet and contrived for me. I like my stories a little more lively with characters who break the rules a little.