The Troublemaker
by Rexanne Becnel, historical (2001)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-97755-7


Marshall MacDougal is shocked to realize that his life has been a lie. His father Cameron Byde may not be dead all this while. While rummaging through his late mother's possessions, this American champion boxer learns that his father and his mother may never even be married. Cameron sent pregnant Maureen MacDougal to America, promising to come after, only to renege on his promise and marry a more appropriate English bride soon after. Incensed, Marshall goes to England, vowing revenge.

In England, Marshall's half-sister Olivia's half-sister (confusing, huh?) Sarah Palmer just cannot stay out of trouble. This girly girl gets herself compromised by a thoroughly unsuitable guy, and instead of sending her to a crude lobotomy, her parents send her to Scotland to stay with half-sister Olivia. Sarah thinks herself so clever when she intercepts her mother's letter to Olivia. Olivia, not knowing that Sarah is coming, leaves off for some jolly fun trip with her husband. Sarah gets the whole place to herself. Heh, heh, heh. She is so smart, she thinks.

Then comes Marshall, who mistakes her for his half-sister. Still, he must have read too many VC Andrews books because wow, look at his Austin Powers impersonation, baby! Viva consanguinity! Sarah, who doesn't have a clue until it's almost too late, starts seeing stars in her eyes too. When she discovers that he's just out for revenge, oh, the pain, the pain! Can love triumph?

That is, if I can even call the infatuation of Ms Girly Girl "love". Sarah Banana here acts like a hyperactive dumb wench most of the time. Will it kill her to sit back and thinkthinkthink even for a nanosecond before she act? Just because a heroine doesn't like to follow the tight and rigid rules of the Ton does not give her free rein to put her brain between her legs and run wild like a roadkill waiting to happen. Pair her with the really vengeance-bent, nasty Marshall and it's a lopsided power-struggle tilting towards Marshall. His thoughts about Sarah can get really ugly. He's a typically dark vintage Becnel character with demons and potential for violence, and for a man like this to be made heroic, he needs an equally flawed or at least a mature and intelligent woman standing against him. Not this impetuous, silly girl whose starry-eyed infatuation seems like child exploitation waiting to happen.

If Banana has grown a brain, if the author doesn't try to make this "absolute innocence conquers absolute darkness" credibility-free ickfest (love is definitely not in black and white, after all) the agenda of the day, The Troublemaker will have made my day. Too bad, the only point it succeeds in conveying is that dumb girlie heroines are nothing but trouble.

Rating: 62


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