Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-6650-0
Historical Romance, 2004
Kresley Cole’s The Price of Pleasure is one of those stories in which the characters do really stupid things when there is a very sensible recourse available to them. Ms Cole seems unaware of how stupid her characters are, though. That or she just doesn’t care because she needs conflicts in her story. If these conflicts arise from the characters acting like birdbrained twits, so be it, let there be birdbrains in this story! What starts off as a story of amusing insipid tomfoolery soon becomes a painful ordeal.
Victoria Dearbourne and her companion Camellia Scott have been stranded on a tropical paradise island in the South Pacific since she was thirteen. When she’s not fending off horny attentions of shipwrecked sailors, she is doing her own take on Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, in her new home. Eight years later, Captain Grant Sutherland has finally found her. But all thoughts of collecting the reward offered by Victoria’s grandmother flees from his head when he spots the beautiful Tori to the point that he actually jumps off the ship (while it’s still not anchored yet) and runs after her. Tori, still suspicious of men after those horny sailors tried to rape her, flees. These two spend the next few chapters in a chase best described as The Road Runner Show crossed with Home Alone.
Things get worse when Tori is on Grant’s ship and decides that she wants him. Woo-wee, Grant, however, doesn’t want him because he thinks that she’s just not sure of what she wants and he’s a gentleman (in a way, he’s right, but that doesn’t stop him too much though). When they reach London, things become even more silly when childish arguments and misunderstandings big and small arise from Tori’s attempts to fit in.
Lest I make this book come off like a delightfully bawdy farce, let me assure you that it isn’t. The love scenes are quite hot, if a little purple, but there is nothing bawdy about the stupidity of the characters. One of the biggest and most obvious problems here is that the characters cannot and will not talk to each other. A sensible explanation from Grant – that he is here to bring Tori back to England – would have eliminated the silly chase around the island. But at least that chase brings some chuckle-worthy moments. There is nothing funny when the main characters, especially Tori, start jumping to irrational conclusions after eavesdropping parts of conversations or misinterpreting actions of the people around them. Here, the characters’ inability to talk makes reading this book becomes a painful ordeal because everyone is being so childish and foolish. Factor in the author making Grant often saying things that he doesn’t mean (don’t ask) and I give up on these people. They are stupid. They can all sail away into a whirlpool for all I care. In fact, I’d probably care enough to cheer if they do sail into a whirlpool.
Grant was smart as a secondary character in the previous book but he’s a nitwit here. Ian, a secondary character here, is quite smart. His book is due next. I’ll be very afraid for the state of his brainpower if I were him.
Kresley Cole seems to operate here under the assumption that no conflict is ever a bad conflict so she cheerfully uses the most contrived conflicts abundantly, never mind that these conflicts arise from wretchedly stupid misunderstandings that make her characters come off as too stupid to root for. Thanks to this, there is something very morbid about this book being called The Price of Pleasure. There’s a joke in there somewhere, but my head is still ringing for me to articulate properly what that joke could be.