Dell, $6.50, ISBN 0-440-23640-1
Historical Romance, 2001
Oh man, Claire Delacroix tries to go all-out “heavy” and “political” and she still manages to write something out of the Care Bear Tales Archive. It must take a tremendous amount of genius to write silly, addle-pated heroines and simplistic one-dimensional heroes with all the gravity of the Pope.
When an author calls her heroine The Temptress, the heroine will either be a great slutty type or a complete nincompoop doing stupid things in the name of amour. Claire Delacroix’s heroine Esmeraude is a Care Bear who has knocked her head way too many times against the wall for her own good, so alas, no sexy slutty fun here.
Esme is an intelligent woman who knows what she wants. The author tells me so. See, Esme wants a husband who is not tall, not short, not rich, not poor, not generous, not stingy, not too eager to do her biddings, not too eager to stifle her opinions, not fat, not thin, not serious, and not funny. In short, in romance novel pipsqueak speak: she wants to marry for love.
Her mother Eggie, heroine of the The Countess decides to hold a tournament where the winner will win the hand of Esme.
Esme hates that. She doesn’t want a man who will marry her because of her looks, her money, or her ovaries. I don’t know – no man will want her for her intellect, because there is nothing remotely intellectual about her, so she’s just setting herself up for failure. The only way she can find a husband is when her mother sticks a dowry on her and auction her off to the most desperate losers in the country. So she should just stick out her bum and stop whining.
So Esme decides to run away. She will approach the King of the Isle to complain that her mother doesn’t let her marry for love. Her maid warns her there are men out there stupid enough to want to poke her. Esme laughs it off. “Adventure! I want adventure!” she hoots.
The King handfasts her to one of his men, sneering that hoo, now he can finally get his hands on her lands. Esme seethes. How dare he! To think, they talk so nicely last year at some party!
At this point, I’m all for the lobotomy of Esme with the rustiest, bluntest monkeywrench around. Mind you, Claire Delacroix writes about all this with a smile and everyone going “How spirited Esme is! How charming!”
She is rescued by Bayard of Villonne, who has to marry her because he must… er, I think it’s something to do with political alliances. I don’t care, to be honest, because the author makes he and Esme do plenty excruciatingly stupid stuff. I don’t want to go there, because I will be writing an encyclopedic treatise if I do.
I’ll just say this: there’s a certain macabre quality about The Temptress. It is written in a jumbled airy-fairy style that aspires to be fey, but with a plot that is based on stupidity and characters that are sweet and stupid at the same time (a lethal combination guaranteed to make me ill), it’s just surreal, really. A book written in helium, if there is such a thing. It’s so bad that it becomes amusing to read, but after the high wears off, I get a bad headache.