Avon, $7.50, ISBN 0-06-050736-5
Historical Romance, 2002
When authors hit it big time, they are often experience a tremendous burst of infinite magnanimity. They remember that they have a few dozen books, now out-of-print, and out of the goodness of their hearts, they must blow the dusts and cobwebs off these books and re-market them to the fans at, oh, $7.50. And we grateful fans prostrate ourselves in gratitude at the feet of these selfless authors who sacrifice their quality time with their precious kids and mega-successful husbands to make us mere fans happy.
But no amount of doctoring can make this book, initially published back in 1992 as Only in Your Arms, feel fresh. It’s more dated than a calendar. I’ve read the original, and like Ms Kleypas’ mother, I can’t remember a thing about that book either. Well, reading this book is like finding myself in bed with the old boyfriend I’ve completely forgotten until now. There’s some nostalgic factor, maybe, but most of all, there’s this feeling that I have moved on, and sometimes revisiting the past is an overrated activity.
Maximilien Vallerand, a bad Heathcliff impersonator, discovers a waifish little girl his two teenage sons have found. Since this is a romance novel, Daddy will sleep with this stray and we will call it true love. Her name is Lysette Kersaint and together, Lysette and Maxie sound like a new brand of tampon. Or a duo of lesbian porn stars, I don’t know.
Lysette, a typical romance novel heroine, has been beaten black and blue by Stepdaddy, and she will never – NEVER! – marry an evil suitor. You can beat a romance heroine until all her brain cells wilt and die, but you can never break her aura of innocence and purity! Never! She is taken in by Maxie, who has issues with Lysette’s evil suitor, and as Maxie’s momma nurses Lysette (while telling Lysette how her son was ruined by a faithless wife, so Lysette must always forgive Maxie because remember, whatever Maxie does, it’s that bitch’s fault), Maxie and Lysette do moo-moo tonsil tennis games.
Evil wives of heroes, faked marriage of convenience, pity sex passed off as sexual healing, the tart that appears in the introduction of our hero to prove to us what a hottie the hero is as well as what a good way catch he is because He Treats His Prostitutes So Well, momma matchmakers, bodice-heaving rescue fantasies, all as hot as the New Orleans weather. Wait, I lied about the hot thing.
When Strangers Marry, like most Ms Kleypas’ books, is clean and well-written, but it’s also tired, predictable, and undemanding. It’s not as Mary Sue-ish as the author’s later books, where you can use the halo from the dull, one-dimensionally perfect heroines to illuminate the whole galaxy, but it also lacks the bite needed to make the fantasy palatable. This one is like a submissive geisha girl masquerading as a fiery flamenco dancer, and I, for one, am bored of prim and proper virgins having sex with dull bad boys whose baggages and emotional jackass-dom are all the dead bitch’s fault.