St Martin’s Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-98312-3
Historical Romance. 2003
Usually Rexanne Becnel’s heroes are tortured, mean, and sometimes sadistic and cruel, but The Heartbreaker is noticeably lighter in mood and it’s easier on the nerves. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before both the hero and the heroine mutate into poster children of the utmost stupidity.
The story is pretty simple. In fact, I’d have suggested to St Martin’s Press to revise the title of this book to The Preggernator. James Lindford sees the light after his too-stupid stepsister is seduced by a scumbag in The Troublemaker. This happy event brings on an epiphany in him, so much so that he starts seeking out the children of the teenagers he had impregnated when he was younger to raise as his own. There’s an Indian baby, Leya, and the creature from hell, Izzy. However, the kids are too much trouble and soon he hires commoner Phoebe Churchill to take care of them. Next thing I know, both of them are rutting up and down and yes, they aren’t even taking any precautions. Too stupid to live can’t wait to descend upon everyone today.
Phoebe is of course the super maternal doormat. She is the perfect mother, having raised her sister’s kid Helen all on her own all these years. Izzy is bad enough as the stereotypical monster kid from hell, but the author makes it worse by using Izzy and the other girls (and dog) very transparently as a contrived plot device of love and matchmaking whoopees.
But everything really hits the smelly bin when James and Phoebe start having sex with the children sleeping outside the door and during other bizarre circumstances. It doesn’t make sense from both characters’ points of view, this boink-a-thon. She has seen how her sister has her reputation ruined beyond repair and she doesn’t want to live that way. But here she is, even willingly being James’s mistress under the same roof with his wife-to-be when earlier on in the book she’s all about morals and virtues. Frankly, Phoebe comes off like a weak-willed spineless ninny as she laments about how she has to let James be with the woman he loves (not her, of course) and the children he loves while all she can do is to savor the boinking she has for now and the memories forever, et cetera. Hello? A woman that caves in to desire and forsakes her very principles for a man that willingly lets her be his mistress under the same roof as the woman he’s marrying… eh? The sad thing, Phoebe is selling her principles and playing the baby lottery with a man that isn’t much of a catch in the first place. James is a man that takes responsibility only when he has to sleep in the bed he’s made and even then he’d sleep on his own sweet time and terms – and he’ll bring his mistress to the bed while he’s at it.
I’m not asking that James and Phoebe behave like paragons. But in the case of The Heartbreaker, it’s all about two stupid people not learning from experiences, having unprotected sex after repeatedly experiencing or witnessing the consequences of such actions, and selling themselves short for transitory pleasures. The whole sordid story is more disheartening than inspiring.