Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-077315-4
Historical Romance, 2005
I know I have problems with this book when When Dashing Met Danger opens with our hero Alexander Scarston, the Earl of Selbourne, rescuing heroine Lucia Dashing from being rogered by her fiancé, and she then decides that Alex’s a lout because he doesn’t want her to go home escorted by the same lout that nearly raped her. You see, Lucia insists that she could have handled the situation even if Alex hasn’t come to rescue her. So her skirts are entangled in the bushes and the man is very drunk but… yes, Lucia has everything under control. Lucia therefore insists that she doesn’t need to be rescued and she’ll just go back inside and go home in a carriage with her loutish fiancé. Yes, alone with him in a carriage. Lucia’s excuse for her fiancé’s behavior is that he has had too much to drink. Honey, is that an excuse? That is more of a justification to leave the man. Oh, that stupid, stupid girl.
I find myself muttering, “Oh, that stupid, stupid girl!” so often even before I reach page 100 of this book. If I’m a less rational person, I’d swear that Ms Galen must have deliberately written a book calculated to turn me into a gibbering mess and she’s probably hiding somewhere and laughing at me as I go “Aaaah!” and whack this book with a feather duster.
Later, Lucia’s family learns that her twin brother is missing and her father has enlisted Alex’s help. Alex is the brother of the man that married Lucia’s sister, you see. At any rate, Lucia is determined that she will help Alex locate her brother even if she has no clue even how to begin, so that will tell you right there and then the good times she and Alex will have in this story.
Lucia drives me crazy. Among the many charming moments of hers in this story, she tells me that she’s determined to marry her near-rapist come what may to prove to her father that she is an adult. She says that marriage doesn’t need love, you see. Then when she decides she’s in love with Alex, that’s when she starts wailing, “Where is the love?” In short, Lucia can’t be any more like a patented Moronic Avon Romance Heroine if she comes with a tattoo of the phrase “Make Way for the Stoopids!” on her forehead. The author is aware that Lucia is coming off as a spoiled and stupid brat, because she’s always making Lucia this close to stomping her feet when Lucia is not tossing her curls. The problem is, Ms Galen thinks Lucia is being precious and cute instead of being too overly impulsive and therefore being too irritating for words. Lucia rarely thinks before she acts. She behaves like a typical overemotional and immature idiot who needs the obvious to be spelled out to her. Oh, that stupid, stupid girl. Following her thought train as she goes from being completely wrong to even more wrong in everything is pure torture. My brain could very well atrophy while I’m subjected to Lucia.
Alex is a better character. At the very least, he knows what he’s doing most of the time and he’s hardly as stupendously wrong as Lucia. However, he is also a cliché, albeit a more pleasant one. His rakish reputation is wallpaper: while a few ex-girlfriends pop up here and there to drive Lucia into hormonal volcanic eruptions of insipid jealousy, Alex comes off like a normal fellow with a pretty normal social life. He’s also a spy, but like his ultra-studly reputation, his capability as a spy seems pretty average for a supposed spy master that he is. It is as if Ms Galen has studied the indoctrination handbook given to her by RWA before she signs the dotted line as a member and believes that Alex must be a playboy and a spy or the reader will instantly develop an allergy to this book. Alex is just… normal. He’s like an everyday Joe pretending to be a spy and a playboy because of the mistaken belief that his penis isn’t big enough to make him a romance hero if he doesn’t have a job and a social life like every clichéd hero out there.
I especially love the reasons these characters give in order for them to not give in to love. Even by Avon standards, they are impressively asinine. As I’ve said earlier, Lucia wants to marry her near-rapist to prove to Daddy that she is an adult. An adult nutcase, I suppose. Alex doesn’t believe that love can lead to any good so his mantra is that it is better to let her go than to love her, even if he loves her because love can only hurt everybody. Ugh, When Dashing Met Danger, my head begins to hurt like crazy.
When Lucia is not trying to drive my blood pressure through the roof, the rest of the story follows faithfully the formula. Secondary characters decide just like this – snap! – that Lucia and Alex are meant to be immediately after seeing Lucia scowl at Alex because these characters are psychic and they can understand what mere mortals can’t: when two characters tell each other to go to hell, they are really saying, “Let’s play doctor!” The characters are clichés, the storyline is predictable with the missing brother’s fate pretty obvious from the beginning (so much for being a super spy, eh, Alex?), and really, there is nothing here to make this book stand out apart from the heroine who really needs to grow up a little bit some more before she starts popping out babies. With this book alone, I can’t detect any discernible voice that is Shana Galen’s, therefore I don’t know if she’s a really terrible author or she’s just a follower of the trends who missed the bus. It will be nice if the author proves me wrong in her future books. I’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose.