Captured Hearts
by Mary Jo Putney, Joan Wolf, Edith Layton, Patricia Rice, and Mary Balogh; historical (1999, reissue)
Topaz, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-40883-7


Five authors have gotten together to rerelease their Regency-tinged novellas (sex scenes optional, but explicit scenes definitely not allowed, please) to teach us poor dumb but wistful readers about the Glory and Wisdom of Man. He may be a jackass, but we should all be in awe with the Glory of Wisdom of Man nonetheless.

So let us all hold hands and, uh, I don't know. My brain short-circuited sometime around Patricia Rice's novella and all I could think of right now is some really NC-17 rated things of what I'd like to do with a pair of scissors and this book.

It's not that it's badly written, oh no. But every one of the five novellas here annoy me no end.

Firstly, Mary Jo Putney does a Western in Mad, Bad, And Dangerous To Know. Yes, it's a "Glory Ye Be A Victim, O Woman!" ode, as our long-suffering abused-when-he-was-alive widow sees a poor wounded criminal and nurses him - even if he's said to be a bad criminal - because, well, because there's a reason somewhere, I'm sure. It's probably the same reason why romance heroines take in wounded strangers on their doorsteps and then blush at the sight of the stranger's nudity, why romance heroines never make sure the baddie is really dead before running off to whip themselves in guilt, and why romance heroines hold on to their precious virginity for 28 years only to lose it in an "Oops! I got laid!" scene and get pregnant as a result.

Stupidity? You said it. Not me.

So heroine nurses hero. Hero gets well. Hero confesses that he is the one who shot heroine's husband. Love is in the air. The end.

Still, best of the lot. Its only crime is being completely predictable and by the book.

Next, Joan Wolf's The Antagonists. Annoyingly spunky woman grows up with boy, boy becomes a rake, spunky woman becomes a weird bluestocking mutant hybrid (it's in the genes of all Rengency era heroines), sees him with other women, seethes, falls in love with him. The end.

Virtue wins the day. Man, surrounded by experienced and sexually adventurous women, gets bored and spends rest of his life shackled to a whitebread woman who will probably scream and faint if he suggests the Slot A into Slot C thing.

But even more capable of self delusion in a Revenge of Unable To Get Laid Prude Prunes way is Mary Balogh's Precious Rogue. Slut hero sleeps with three women at once, but he finally gives all up for Virtuous Incompetent Virgin who falls for him - snap! - like that because she sees the niceness in him or some rot.

Mary Balogh sums up the whole Prune Anti-Sex But We Love Oversexed Rakes Self Delusion Brigade's agenda when she says in this story that women love rakes and rakes love virtuous women they can corrupt. Maybe, but I doubt it leads to happy matrimony.

But hey, I'm just an annoyed reader bored with the annoying staleness of the Regency era romance. Don't mind me.

Patricia Rice presents Fathers And Daughters, and no, she's not channeling DH Lawrence, more the pity. Stupid spendthrift guy loses girl, goes away, comes back rich, marries girl, the end. This one could've been nice if these two losers T-A-L-K. When he comes back and sees that she's still available, he just can't say "Hello, I'm sorry, can we have sex now?" even if it's a novella where emotional merry-go-rounds can be avoided for the sake of brevity. Needless to say, he talks stupid, sexist stuff, she gets this impression that he's insufferable, but since he's rich, they marry. The end.

I'm so happy for them.

And lastly, Edith Layton's Buried Treasure. Stupid pirate washed up on shore gets pampered and nursed by gullible people, he buries his treasure in even more gullible ninny while thinking of pulling up anchor when he's better, and in the last moment, decides to stay around for good. Very nice, uh-huh, especially with an oblivious heroine who is just waiting for a football team to use her as the ball in a game.

So there you go. Be virtuous, be silent, be spunky in everything but asserting for yourself, and a rake will come and debauch you. And then he'll marry you. Nice. I can't wait to take up herbal healings, and now I really hate my father for not losing our family house so that I would have to strip for that foul-alcohol-breath-smelling playboy downtown whom I know must be a good soul because he's such a stud and he's like, you know, it's all his slut's fault, yadda yadda yadda.

What - foggy - ever, really.

Rating: 68


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