Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-7759-7
Paranormal Romance, 2013
It’s increasingly hard to find a straightforward time-travel romance these days, so when I came across Gina Lamm’s The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl, I thought, “Hey, why not?” So the guy on the cover looks nothing like Colin Firth despite the author’s assertion, and that guy, the Earl of Dunningham, is wearing modern-day trousers despite the fact that a bulk of this story takes place in 1816. Still, we can’t hold an ugly cover art against the author, so this book found its way into my clutches.
Blame it on boredom, or the full moon, but before I opened the book, I just had to second-guess the author. Recalling the most annoying clichés that can be found in time-travel stories, I ended up with this list:
- The heroine would be feisty, openly flaunts conventions, and be admired for it.
- Despite the fact that the heroine showed up in the middle of nowhere through unexplained ways, acts and speaks outlandishly, and has no background or pedigree to recommend her, the household staff immediately tries to matchmake her with the hero – an Earl, if you will recall – because… I guess it’s because the heroine is special, and special people deserve nice things in life.
- The hero’s girlfriends are all negative stereotypes, designed in such a way to make the heroine look amazing without having to put any effort into making the heroine a character in her own right.
- The internal conflict would revolve around her feeling unworthy of his affections and he being a stubborn lummox when it comes to love.
Either I’m psychic or the author is settling for generic mediocrity here because the story ends up being what I feared it would be.
Like the title suggests, Jamie Marten is a geek. Or rather, she plays online games – MMORPGs, to be exact. When the story opens, she plays a healer but refuses to heal or revive fallen allies in her party, running off instead to fight with the enemies. The author claims to play World of Warcraft in her biography, so I can only wonder what motivates the author to create a heroine that embodies some of the worst behavior in an MMORPG.
Worse, Jamie complains that people expect her to heal because she’s a woman. No, darling, they expect her to heal because she plays a healer toon. I can only roll up my eyes when, after all the complaining, she switches to her warrior character. If she wanted to kill things and she has a DPS toon, why didn’t she play that toon? Why play a healer and waste everyone else’s time if she doesn’t want to heal? Oh god. I’m not even going to start with her acting like she has to play a female toon because she’s female in real life. This crazy hag causes a party wipe because of her weird gender issues. If I were her guild leader, I’d boot her with extreme prejudice.
And then, I discover that she has to be practically blackmailed to show up for her part time job – moving furniture – and she just has to be clumsy and klutzy, as incompetence is so darling in a romance heroine. She breaks something, accuses inanimate objects of being mean to her, and assures me that she’s going to be “feisty” in horrible ways and I’d really wish she’d be struck dead twenty pages down the road.
Destiny, fate, or God finally decides to give present day humanity and the WoW-knockoff community a brief respite from Jamie’s existence by sucking her into a mirror. Jamie soon finds herself transported all the way to the home of Micah Axelby, our Colin Firth-lookalike Earl, across the Atlantic Ocean and time. Oh, how will she survive?
There is a rare moment of amusement or two when Jamie compares her various predicaments to common scenarios in gaming, but the references to gaming culture are disappointingly superficial. There is no going for the jugular here – the author can’t seem to even decide whether she wants to poke fun at gaming culture or not. If you are hoping for smart references to the WoW culture, well, good luck finding them here. They are rare enough that Jamie being a gamer girl seems more like a gimmick than anything else. Maybe the author doesn’t want to alienate non-gamer readers, but her approach is so light that Jamie could very well be a knitting addict without having to make drastic changes to the story line.
The romance is ho-hum, filled with predictable issues and twists that have been done many times before. Then again, the entire story is predictable. Micah is a poorly developed fellow who doesn’t seem even a little like the rake he is said to be. His “scandalous” reputation seems more like the result of his showing his pee-pee to the wrong kind of women.
Apart from its title, this book doesn’t have anything interesting going for it. It’s just too mired in overused tropes and clichés, all of them applied in uninspired broad strokes.