Avon, $7.99, ISBN 0-380-75086-4
Historical Romance, 2005 (Reissue)
This month, the TBR Review Challenge presents “Old School” as the theme, and given that I recently located a box of Johanna Lindsey novels in a corner of the storeroom – don’t ask me how it got there, as I had no memory of it until I found it – now is as good a time as any to catch up on the author’s famous Malory series. I read and reviewed the first book upon the request of a supporter on Patreon, and I’m curious to see where the series would take me from there.
Tender Rebel was first published in 1988, about ten years before I started reading romance novels, so it’s as old school as any. The story will be a familiar one, although done in that oh-so-stupid manner that makes this either a story one will sincerely enjoy or a book to hate-read with liberal strong libation on the side – no in-between.
Lady Roslynn Chadwick has always been allowed to pick the man she will marry, and of course to date she is single. You know these heroines; they will only marry a man that makes them feel funny downstairs. Oh, and she’s from Scotland, and “Scottish” in this genre is an euphemism for stubborn ass. When her grandfather dies, leaving her all alone, she inherits a whole lot of money and properties. This also means that her nasty cousin Jordy Cameron is now hell bent on making her his wife, so that he can help himself to all those goodies that come along with her. Our heroine flees to London, where she encounters one creepy-ass fortune hunter after another.
All Roslynn wants is a husband to keep those creepy-asses and Jordy away. She has a plan. She will, of course retain control over all her money and her properties, but the husband will get some allowance, so really, any sane man will surely find such an arrangement irresistible. It’s so bizarre that nobody is queuing up to take advantage of her generosity.
Then we have Anthony Malory, rake, et cetera. When he sees her, he wants her honey bad. He stalks her, blatantly lets her know that he wants to violate every feasible orifice of hers with his digits and more, and generally behaves like another creepy-ass stalkers that she encounters often. Only, he’s hot and “her loins were aching”, her womanly bits “an inferno of moist heat”. It can only be true love when a heroine feels horny for some guy!
Finally, Jordy’s men keep causing trouble and Anthony ends up marrying our heroine to keep her safe. You’d think she would finally be happy, especially now that she can have all the true love man-meat that she wants every time and any time, but no. While at first she says that her husband is free to pork around any time he wants, she soon changes the rules – without telling him, of course – and starts railing at him every time she imagines that he is sneaking off to boff someone else. This jealousy soon encompasses her entire attention span and focus to an irrational degree. Oh, the husband went out to track down the villain in order to keep her safe… wait, she smells perfume on him so he must be cheating on her, so EEEEEEEEE. Her life is in danger, and she instead gets worked up over her jealousy issues. Roslynn definitely has her priorities in order.
Not that her husband is a prize. What, she thinks that he is cheating on her? He will never set her straight, because how dare she! He will just puff up his chest and let her think the worst of him because he is a Malory. Someone please give him a prize for being so awesome.
What I have described isn’t anything new when it comes to historical romances – this premise has been done to death. Maybe I’d have enjoyed this one better if I read it back in 1988 and such a story may still feel fresh. In the current year, however, I am bored. It really doesn’t help that both characters display the brainpower of a broken toaster. Much of the drama here is fueled by irrational leaps to wrong conclusions, paranoia, jealousy, and rampant inability to communicate. The only character dumber than these two is the villain, but that’s not really saying much, really. Antony is unreasonably stubborn, while Roslynn is one-note shrill and screechy and irrational. Our heroine is also stubbornly mistrustful of Antony despite him saving her rear end countless times, and really, so many of the conflicts here that aren’t perpetuated by Jordan are instead being powered to the max by her own imbecile ways.
So, in a nutshell, Tender Rebel is a clear cut example of a story that relies on constant communication issues between two imbeciles as well as non-stop cartoon villain antics in order to propel itself to the finish line. It’s a painful read, and I find myself thinking that a true happy ending can only exist in the form of these two in a clown car going over a cliff.
So why two oogies instead of one? Well…
And it managed to fill her, a glorious, welcoming fullness that she pushed against, locking her legs around him so she wouldn’t lose it, finally feeling she had gained a measure of control. She wouldn’t let go, and the pressure built in her, grew, until it seemed to pop, opening a new channel of feeling deep inside her that brought a certain relief of the tension, but not enough relief to last.
On a more serious note, aside from the purple phraseology for the scant love scenes here, the whole thing is actually very easy to read. There is a strong descriptive quality to the writing; when the author describes a location or the set-up of a scene, I often feel like I’m right there in the story, watching things unfold with my own eyes. It’s just a shame that all of this is wasted on two obnoxious bird-brained idiots that can’t find their way out of a paper bag even if both ends of the bag had been cut wide open.