Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29166-3
Historical Romance, 2001
What an awful title. What next in Harlequin’s repertoire of cringe-inducing titles? The Celibate Nymphomaniac? How about The Chaste Harlot?
Bad title aside, the story inside isn’t much to get excited over either. Populated by the tried and true stereotypes, written with all the fire and liveliness of an Ambien-doused snail, The Virtuous Cyprian is as fun as sitting on a heated stove.
Let’s see. Our hero, Nicholas (war hero, bored nobleman, post-war depression as a feeble excuse to drink, throw things, slut around, and behave like a constipated bad-tempered mule), is engaged to some disposable frigid but shrieky debutante, whom he agrees to marry just because he… well, just because. When his fiancée hears that a courtesan is taking up residence in one of his houses, she breaks the engagement.
Nick decides to see who this courtesan is. He finds “Susanna” in his estate, living in a most non-courtesan manner. Actually, Sue is Lucille, the twin sister of the courtesan. The stupider twin, who claims to be “intelligent” because she has read all the books in her dead but beloved absent-minded financially-irresponsible daddy’s library (all but Survival Skills Anybody with A Brain Should Know). Lucille, the good twin, wonders why everyone is so nasty towards her. Or why Nick is so hostile and cold towards her.
It probably never occurred to her that maybe it’s because, uh, her sister… you know.
Anyway, brainy Lucy immediately has the hots for the man who all but pushes her into the bilge tub. And brainy Lucy never think to tell Nick that she’s not Sue, her courtesan twin who is off chasing after future rich husbands. She loves her sister and so lets the sister take advantage of her. Oh, it’s the same old Virginal Martyr Blues again. Nick blows her hot and cold, and she just keep hanging on with this forlorn “Why?” expression on her face.
Please, somebody, anybody, either feed these pathetic doormat heroines or euthanize them. Please, before I cough up blood in exasperation and just keel over.
There are some mini-misunderstanding episodes, secondary plots that go nowhere, and oh yes, the merciless abuse of exclamation marks. Then again, Nick is always blustering and Lucy is always whimpering, so I guess the exclamation marks may out be that out of place.
Anyway, The Virtuous Cyprian here isn’t so virtuous as she is a nincompoop who lets a dull, stuffy prig walk all over her. If all titles reflect the stories inside accurately, this one will be called The Big-breasted Doormat Nincompoop.