Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7327-5
Historical Romance, 2002
Dear readers, please, I beg you, please do read the first book in this series, A Question of Honor first before attempting to tackle The Exiles. Don’t be like me. I’ve read the first book, but I found it so unmemorable that I barely remember a thing about that book. Worse, I’ve already sent it packing to the UBS (sorry, Ms Abrams, but I need space in the apartment for the new super big screen color TV so that I can see my darling Simon Baker in all his glory – you understand, right?). It is not a pretty sight watching me scratching my head raw trying to make heads or tails out of this story.
Yes, no back story here, not even a prologue to explain the mess a newbie will soon be finding herself knee-deep in. The plot continues from the previous book, where our French villain is free again to cause havoc and mayhem. Something about our heroine Elizabeth DeQuincy having forced to run away and dress up as a boy only to lose all her money (memo to Daddies in romance novels: for the love of God, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, L Ron Hubbard, please, please lock your daughters and throw away the key before they kill themselves venturing into the scary world outside) and finding protection with a gentleman double-spy fencer named Sommers.
Lots of intrigue. I don’t know what is going on. Characters pop up, and I don’t know who they are. They do things, and I don’t what or why they are doing the things they do. Finally, I just clutch my head and dunk it into a bucket of ice water to ease the throbbing migraine in my head.
This is a very plot-driven story, but never mind, I’ll try again. I’m not going to buy A Question of Honor again just to make heads or tails of this story, forget it, but this time, I’ll just stop caring about making sense of things and just enjoy.
I can’t enjoy. Did I mention that the romance is almost non-existent? The heroine spends almost all the time being believed by everyone – including the hero – as a boy, so the interactions between her and the hero are more semi-casual in nature, ie between an older brother and a younger sibling. She has a crush on him, but he doesn’t reciprocate, not even in a homoerotic way. Therefore, there is no romantic relationship developing at all, and the whole rushed (somewhat) happy-ever-after in the end adds to yet another bewildering element in this story.
With a large ensemble of cast whose positions and roles in this chess board are never or very, very slowly made clear and a plot that spills over from the last book without even an “Excuse me”, The Exiles is a pure exercise of frustration for me. My only crime is to choose a TV over A Question of Honor, and while Ms Abrams may see this as a fitting crime for the punishment she inflicted on me with The Exiles, I would still beg to differ. It is unfair for a non-standalone book that is actually part of a series to not have any labels or warnings on the cover or in a foreword.
Tit for tat, though, eh? The Exiles, well, gets exiled to the UBS. I need more room in my apartment for a brand new stereo.