Dell, $6.50, ISBN 0-440-23634-7
Historical Romance, 2000
Reached the University Hospital. Actually, my appointment is at 9.30 am but every Malaysian worth his or her salt knows to queue up at least two hours earlier or end up at the end of line of more than 1,000 people. Brought a book with me, The Countess by Claire Delacroix to pass the time. Vow to overlook any plot inaccuracies and illogicalities that may plague this book like previous books by this author – will be happy or die trying.
So far it’s pretty mundane. Countess woman Eglantine, the once bad but now repentant woman in The Heiress, has a lousy (now dead) husband etc etc. She is being evicted from her fabulous equal-opportunities, no guard, no defense fairytale castle in some idyllic corners of Ireland. She hoards her daughters, groomed to appear in the next two books in this series, and heads off to Scotland to live in some property her husband left her.
Discovers laird Duncan squatting in the castle – they bicker even as she realizes what a hot stud he is. Duncan is involved in a wrestling match with his foster-brother for the title of Laird. Attraction and intrigue ensues.
Put down book for what seemed like hundredth time. Woman next to me is telling another woman about her ruptured intestines. Very gory. Another woman contributed a tale of her mother’s gangrene and upcoming amputation. Made up a story about infected appendix – my medical history doesn’t sound that oomph.
Find story I’m reading slow and predictable. Main problem is the relationship between the two and their characterization. But more later – Chwee Mee is telling a splendidly vivid tale of her husband’s brush with cholera.
Doctor hasn’t arrived, still waiting. Right now in middle of the book. Realize main problem – Eglantine’s background is practically sugarcoated and erased by this author. The “She’s not bad, she’s just misunderstood!” school of thought. As a laird, Duncan demonstrates the capability of a graduate from Miss Manners Academy leading a charge at Waterloo. He sings! He woos! He speaks in Hallmark greeting card-ish sentiments. Relationship seems to be nothing more than heroine pouting and hero puckering. Wish something would happen. Maybe the other clansmen – all sharing the same thought bubble and are probably cloned from one of the seven dwarves – could do a can-can dance and liven things up.
Still no sign of doctor(s), and the waiting room is getting more packed with increasingly bad-tempered people. The villain in this book is pretty bad tempered too, and I wonder if Eglie’s daughter would succeed in her quest to lose her hymen.
Where the hell is that doctor? “Major surgery,” the harassed nurse keeps stammering. The doc would sure need a major surgery when I get my hands on him. Almost about to finish two-thirds of book, and wonder when would the fireworks of battle start.
Staff flee the angry patients for lunch. Fireworks start in the book – if the romance is cartoon-like and unrealistic, at least the final confrontations aren’t too bad.
Ooh, the doc just can’t see me today, it seems! I got a new appointment – next month, 14th. Well, at least the day isn’t a total lost. I get to read about Aelinore’s amazing Bride Quest II – her “Ma, I’m gonna do it and you ain’t stopping me!”. And Eglie’s “Young lady, I’m gonna get you a chastity belt, but after I do it with my understanding, hunky, ultra-sensitive, Disney-fied Scots stud!” makes some amusing reading too.
Well, I think I succeeded in overlooking plot irregularities and the glaring rewriting of Eglie’s character (actually, it’s not a rewrite, it’s a complete whitewashing – maybe I’m supposed to pretend that the last book doesn’t exist, maybe I’m supposed to have selective memory). I even succeeded in overlooking the one-dimensional characters and linear, simplistic storytelling. I think it’ll do better in the hands of readers who like their fairy tales sugary, sweet, and most un-medieval, with some sex to differentiate it from, say, the Walt Disney version of Sleeping Beauty. Then again, what’s the excuse for the abrupt short-cuts in characterization and drama?
Still, I must say the action scenes are good. And I did have tales of pus-oozing wounds and chronic conjunctivitis to pass the time during the tepid Walt-Disney cute romantic moments of Eglie and Duncan.