Devilish
by Jo Beverley, historical (2000)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-19997-9


I was at the local bookstore in my weekly Bomb The Budget book binge when this hunk stepped right out the book aisle and declared to me, "Take me home!"

"Oh no," I told him. "Rottie, your brothers' stories drove me nuts. Or rather, their clingy, Blame it all on me wives. I am not taking you home."

"But I'm Rothgar. Don't you know me? Readers have been heralding my Great Coming for eight years. Not one day lapses without my name being brought up on a bulletin board or on a listserv. I'm the man of all romance readers' dream. You must love me."

"No. No, no, no," I said, looking under M for the new Victoria Malvey book. "Forget it. I'm stronger than you think. I am not curious about your story. No way! No... bloody... way!"

Okay, so I'm a woman of weak will. Sue me.

Poor Rothgar. Superstar, bigger than big, the new Messiah Of Sex and Love, he is trapped in a story where everyone, including the author, is so in awe of him that the end result is a one-dimensional superhero. And poor, unlucky Diana Westmount. The author has taken pains to make Rottie the new icon of romance, but Diana's characterization is left to rot as the stereotypical milksop wimp. Nobody can outshine Ye Divine Rottie, and it shows.

The whole adulatory mood is set in the first two chapters where I am treated to an absolutely unnecessary scene of Rottie dueling with a dispensable extra. I still have no idea what the whole thing's about except that I'm supposed to hold my breath in awe when brother Bryght keeps telling me He was magnificent. He was amazing. Yeah yeah, where's my romance story?

Turns out the heroine Diana has caught the omnipotent interest of Rottie last year. Now, the irritating couple of Secrets Of The Night is getting married, and at the wedding, Rottie and Diana are going to meet again. Oh my.

I must admit at this point I can't help getting into the mood of anticipation of a fun, sexually-charged battle of the sexes. Who am I kidding? Diana may be good with guns and all, and everyone calls her strong and spirited, but the silly ninny lets tears painfully fall every time she thinks of her poor virginal body going to rot. She's not getting married, you see, because she can't bear to be a mere wife. But oh, think of the children she can't have! And the orgasms! (Frankly, if she thinks a woman actually need a man to have orgasms, I don't know what to say to her.)

There are some political intrigue going on, some nice scenes about automatons, but frankly, the whole plot revolves around Rottie being so patient and catering to our "strong" heroine's insecurities and neuroses. She can't have children - boo hoo hoo! Rottie marries her only for convenience! Sob sob sob! She gets all fired up at the thought of Rottie and his past mistresses! Ooh pout, pout, pout! And as usual, she can't have fun, she can't! No, no, no. Until the story is about to end, and she finally lets Rottie show her the true meaning of the Mighty O.

Apologies to the legions of Rottie fans out there. It is times like this that I really feel distanced from the romance community because, as usual, I'm tuned on a different frequency compared to the others. But here's what I think: sexy, arrogant heroes mollycoddling tearful, insecure whiners do not make an interesting romance. Where's the repartee? Where's the fun? Diana isn't even close as a match for Rottie. He'll be bored of her in a week.

Rating: 71


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