The Dragon's Bride
by Jo Beverley, historical (2001)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20358-5


Picture this. I was still recovering from flu, and my hubby was kind enough to do some bookshopping for me when I couldn't join him in our weekly heavy-duty bookstore rampage. There I was, watching some lousy daytime shopping programs, when he called. "Oi, darlin', there's this new book by Jill Beverley called The Dragon's Bride. You want or not?"

Jill Beverley? "You mean Jill Barnett?" I asked into the phone. Wasn't Jill Barnett's latest supposed to be hardcover? Hubby and I rarely buy hardcovers, and he wouldn't call to ask about hardcovers.

"No - Jill Beverley."

Must be a new author, I thought. "Okay, bag it up."

Needless to say, hubby is scheduled to visit the optical store ASAP.

And here I am, trying yet again to read Jo Beverley's book. I really want to love this author. Her heroes are okay. They can be rakish too. But her heroines drive me up the wall, and Susan Kerslake here is no different. A plus, of course, is that she is more feitsy and less addlepated than some of this author's more passive heroines. Susan can shoot.

But before she shoots, she has to subject me to at least three pages of mental churnings. Don't they have 1800-SHADDUP lines back in 1816 England? (Of course they don't - but I wish they had.)

In 1816 England, Susan is trying to make sure that her brother wouldn't break his fool neck in his smuggling activities. As she watches her brother at work, she subjects me to - count 'em - thirteen pages of mental introspection. "Lord, she wished she has no part in this... Luck. She hated to depend on luck... She shivered... When this ended, she would leave..." Oh, if you want to leave, Susan, leave. Just leave. Please. Leave. Spare me the incessant mental chatter.

Then she sees a dark shadow looming over her! She pulls out her gun...

... "She had never shot anyone, but she hoped she could do it to save David..."

For goodness sake, woman, JUST SHOOT. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. Bang bang bang bang bang, dammit, BANG BANG BANG!

I'm sorry. I really am much more in control than this. The fact that our heroine can pull out a gun and then spends three paragraphs justifying how she isn't nasty, cruel, she's just shooting to save her brother, et cetera - oh just pull the freaking trigger and be done with it so we can all go home and sleep.

The dark loomy stranger is Con Somerford. He's not really a stranger - both of them are in love once. But Susan, with lots of hang-up's about her illegitimate state, dumped Con when she realized that he wasn't going to inherit. Or something like that.

Now, years later, their paths collide when Susan decides to hunt for a stash of gold. She could do it, if Con isn't poking his nose where it doesn't belong. Oh, what to do?

I really scratch my head at this one. I've received many emails screaming at me for not understanding, much less fawning over the Glory that is Romans, Beverley style. I've read reviews praising this author's mastery in sexual tension and romance. I want to gnaw The Dragon's Bride with my teeth and do a ravenous rottweiler impersonation.

The author uses a lot of one-sentenced paragraphs in this book. Short one-sentenced paragraphs. This creates a really vivid illusion of fear and claustrophobia. And since she doesn't just describe, she goes on and on and on - sometimes even one chapter full - when it comes to the characters' introspection, she creates a really high-pitched state of mental turmoil in my head by osmosis from Susan and Con's mental din. (Actually Con's more tolerable. Susan, however, can't even eat an extra piece of cake without telling me for paragraphs how she is usually a nice, good, noble, virtuous - don't hate her, please - damsel who is stealing gold because of some - aaargggh!)

Take this excerpt as an example.

She knew she loved. That was a force of its own, but it was one she could rule with willpower. She loved, and because she loved it was possible not to show it, not to distress him with it, and to let him go to the woman he had chosen.

But this... this was more elemental. Part of the ache, she was sure, was from struggling not to act, as if battling a fierce wind, or the pull of a stormy sea. It seemed all too likely that the force could overwhelm her, sweeping her into disaster.

Disaster for them both.

She shuddered, then stood to strip off the rest of her clothes, to rub herself sternly with a towel until her skin burned and the ache subsided.

She had to leave. Immediately. She had no explanation she could give anyone, but Con would understand. She'd return to the manor, and then go elsewhere -

She stilled, seeing so many problems.

She had no money until the Horde was prosperous again.

She had nowhere to go, and no easy chance of employment... (Mrs G: How about telemarketing?)

It didn't matter. For both their sakes, she had to at least leave Crag Wyvern. Mrs Gorland could manage the household until a new housekeeper was hired. (Mrs G: How sweet. Even now, thinking about the house. Awww.)

She'd claim she was ill.

At that moment she felt almost ill.

She pulled on a dry shift and added another working corset. She took out her second gray dress and out it on. If she was leaving she could dress in ordinary clothes - but this was armor.

Yet it hadn't protected her from Con...

It wasn't enough.

There could never be enough.

There was no protection except distance.

She looked at her possessions - books, needlework, ornaments. What could she carry them in?

She couldn't delay to pack them. She had to go now.

She's still at it ten pages later.

So there you go. Chapters after chapters, pages after pages of Susan agonizing over every action. Two hundred words of worry and hesitation and dithering for every one action. I haven't even started about the wedding proposal yet. I don't want to see what happens when these two decide to pick up china patterns. I will probably die of old age by the time they are done.

David. She shot to her feet. She must speak to David about this!

But then she realized that he would be with Con.

Con.

If she used this information, Con would lose the earldom.

(Several subsequent paragraph omitted for spoilers.)

But Con.

David or Con?

Lies or truth?

Shut up. Shut up! Shaddup! Shaddup! Shaddup! SHUT UP!

I can't take this. Too much mental jabbering and worrying and screaming and hesitating. Too much thinking. I can't think. I can't breath. Must flee. Need open space. Must. Run. Now. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!

Rating: 50


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