The Pleasure Garden
by Regan Allen, historical (2005)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7798-X
Regan Allen isn't a new author as this is just a new pseudonym for the author formerly known as Regina Scott. I've enjoyed the two books I've read by Regina Scott but if The Pleasure Garden is going to be a typical example of books by Regan Allen, I believe it won't be long before the author has to switch to yet another pseudonym. The Pleasure Garden comes off like an unfunny parody of Regency historical romances without the author's realization. For a long time the heroine is pretty much demented in how she often makes the stupidest decisions that make her life even more complicated, and when her obvious mentally unstable state is a major force in driving the plot, this book is an excruciating read.
I mean, consider the heroine Angelica "Angel" Pruitt. Her late father was a famous orator who knew the Prince, but when he died and left her a destitute orphan, she left her countryside home to come to London. Why? Because, as she explains late in the story, many men want to marry her, some are rich, but she doesn't love them so she comes to London to find love. Instead, she finds herself living in a boardinghouse where the owner is obviously taking advantage of her, to the point that she is so destitute that she decides to take up a student's offer to dress up in Roman outfit and mingle with the guests so that she can eat. She is the only one shocked when she realizes that this student, a mistress to a rich man, is trying to hook her up with some rich gentleman of her own. Of course this means that she happily eats the food at the banquet, as per her promised payment, but when it comes to earning her reward, she chickens out, screams bloody murder because her virtue will be compromised, and flees the party in the arms of our hero Jason Kitterage, whose kiss she then accepts until a misguided footman knocks him unconscious. She then takes him to the boardinghouse where she gets the doctor to nurse him back to health (once more increasing her debts that she has no way to repay).
There is a subplot about Jason unearthing the Mask of Aphrodite, a mask that is said to have the powers to make a woman control men by making these men madly infatuated with her, and how people want this Mask for themselves. But for a long time, this story is about Angel generally being a complete idiot, like how she insists that she will rather starve than to marry without love or heaven forbids, give away her virtue. But prompted by the naughty student who tells Angel that Angel can find a rich and powerful protector that she can influence to help poor kiddies everywhere, she entertains the idea of becoming a mistress. No, I am not joking. You have no idea how much I wish I am joking. Of course, circumstances will have Angel becoming Jason's mistress anyway, so in the end all her tedious and often stupid "I'd rather DIE than to be a WHORE!" dramatic proclamations are for nothing. Does Ms Allen realize how much of an unprincipled joke Angel comes off as in this instance?
Angel is intolerable because she has virtually every irritating trait of an idiot romance heroine. She is beautiful but for no good reason she believes herself, and I quote, "hideous". She knows the Prince Regent and I suspect that she can probably look up a few old contacts of her famous father for help when she's destitute, but no, she'd rather be "independent". But in this case, being independent is synonymous with people taking advantage of her and she allowing her perverse and rigid sense of honor to prostitute herself anyway to Jason after making a million tedious and pained protests to the contrary, so it's not as if Angel deserves anything but a Shut Up Twit pie splattered all over her face. A heroine who makes herself a martyr and lets people use her because she is "noble" and "independent" that way? Please die, thanks.
Jason isn't so bad at first but as the story progresses, he turns into an asshole. He decides to marry Angel because she is a charity case to him. Okay, Angel is pathetic enough to warrant a pity shag, I suppose, but he has full intentions of abandoning her once he has married her. I'm still okay with him at this point because if I'm in his shoes, I'd be making plans left and right to abandon Angel too, for at least another continent. However, once he realizes that Angel knows the Prince Regent, he turns into an uncaring moron. I don't know why because there doesn't seem to be a good reason for him to do this unless I'm to assume that he's feeling guilty for his attitude towards Angel. But even if he's guilty, shouldn't he be making reparations? Instead, he decides to drive her away for her own good. Or in the author's words, for her "freedom". Is Jason for real? Angel had "freedom" when she met him, and she used this "freedom" to starve, be exploited, and to give her virtue for free after torturing me with her hysterical overreactions in any situation that involves kissing and an ugly man. (Situations involving kissing and hot guys like Jason are okay though in Angel's remarkably flexible puritanical mind.)
I pity any reader who opens this book expecting some erotic historical romance because instead, this book is about very stupid people who operate under the principle that being a moron is the same as being noble. Angel comes off like a mentally unstable woman jumping at any opportunity to make herself a victim, Jason needs a few good get-real slaps in the face, and the story just goes on and on because these people are too obtuse to get a clue. The only pleasure to be derived from this book is the pleasure of knowing that I'm done with it and I can move on to far more enjoyable things to do.
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