Love Me Again
by Wendy Burge, historical (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7449-2


This early 19th century historical romance gets my vote as the worst, most lurid, unnecessarily melodramatic, and just plain overwrought piece of smelly crapioli pizza of the year. This book makes Emily Brontė looks like a model of restrain and decorum.

I cannot wait to read this book again.

Somehow, in between laughing so hard that I almost get a hernia and clutching at my head in agony, this book has transcended bad and is now into the nirvana planes of So-Bad-It-Hurt-So-Goodness. I tell you, Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw have nothing, absolutely nothing on the two weirdos in Love Me Again. You know what, even Christopher Dollanganger and his sister Catherine (hmm, another Catherine) come off like the penguins of decorum compared to Varek Von Vischering and Christina St Pole, formerly Christina Von Vischering. The only appropriate way to describe Varek is that he is stark, raving, rabid, outright psycho, while Christina is just as nuts in her own way. The number of roadkill caught in these two's rabid love affair is staggering.

Varek and Christina were hubby and wife when Christina miscarried their child for the sixth time. Varek is an Archduke of Austria, and evil rebels will kill Christina since she fails to provide him an heir (yes, don't ask). He has to send her away... but Christina, not wanting to see her husband ditch her and take a new wife, flees with the help of Sergei, a loyal friend (read: dumb dog).

Cut to six years later. Christina is in England and is now married to Robert St Pole, and she has borned him a son. Varek is now married too, but he has never forgotten Christina. It's Christina he wants, only Christina. Christina! Christina! Christina! After stabbing Sergei once he learns of the man's "betrayal", he then goes on what can be described as a Heathcliffian rampage of psychotics. Christina is no better. She loves him, she always will, and yes, she will keep saying no and no and no even if the denial is obviously turning her into a rabid, raving lunatic.

Every page has these people obsessing over the other. I'm not kidding. Varek doesn't even try to hide it - he would have choked Robert and kill the man on the spot if he isn't stopped. Meanwhile, Christina is just as pathetic, tossing and wailing about her pain, her heartbreak, yadda yadda yadda. When I come across a scene where these two actually share the same dream despite being miles and miles apart and even wake up panting and sweaty at the same time, I think this book has long left Credulity Central and is now floating around the Isthmus of Irrationality.

Seriously, I just love how the author manages to come off sounding like a whacked loon in her prose. You don't read such joyous celebration of pedophilia every day:

She had always belonged to Varek, ever since she had first seen him when she had been an ungainly child of eight. It was still indelibly fused on her memory how he had taken her hand and kissed it so gallantly, his gaze even then a force that could not be denied.

Eeeuw.

He impregnated her when she was only fifteen going on sixteen, pretty much a child bride, and Christina behaves just like those horribly abused young girls fixated unhealthily on their abusers. Not that Varek abuses her - physically, and even that is up to debate, actually - but some of his treatment of her in this book is unforgivable.

What about their spouses?

"No. I love you. Every time I looked at her I hated her because she wasn't you. Every time I fucked her I thought of you. And I fucked her as often as I could, Christina - morning, noon and night. The day she was declared pregnant I never touched her again. I couldn't bear to touch any woman. All I wanted was you. Just to have heard your voice would have soothed me. But, instead, like the coward I never knew you to be, you ran when it became too difficult for you. Well, what about me, Christina? Where was I supposed to run when the nights were so bleak I wanted nothing more than to put a gun to my head and end my misery? Where were you then? Fucking Sergei? Fucking this stranger you mistakenly call husband?"

I don't know whether to laugh hysterically or to cry.

These two rabid psychos are so self-absorbed in their emotions that they don't care who gets trampled in the process. I must admit I find such devoted, blind, pig-headed obsession rather sexy. Seriously, Varek is like a crazy rhino that will keep charging at the wall again and again until his skull cracks open just to get to Christina at the other side - what's not to sigh over?

But not at the expense of the husband and the wife of these two people, surely?

Poor wife of Varek, she gets the Bad Author treatment - she's a skank. And we all know what happens to skanks, don't we?

Robert, however, is a more fully fleshed person, even if the author turns him into a rabid psycho by the end. He loves Christina and in his own way he is just as bad as Varek. I think Christina is a nitwit, but then I try putting myself in her shoes - ooh. I like the fantasy.

Love Me Again is a failure in a sense: the shoddy treatment of Robert is a prime example of transparent plot contrivances on the author's part. The writing is breathtakingly melodramatic and overwrought, sort of like Brontė on ice, but its ultimate flaw is its complete lack of awareness of its own failures.

Imagine Christina actually thinking this of Robert:

The man Robert had become was a man she would never have married. He was too moody. He was too kind. He was too soliticious. He was too jealous. He was too damned unpredictable. She couldn't have turned around without him dogging her steps, asking if she needed anything, and when she demurred, insisting that she needed something, and bound and determined to find out what it was.

Please overlook the grammar and sentence structure - if you can get this far on my own ramblings, Wendy Burge will a piece of cake. Excuse me, but is Christina describing Robert or Varek? Because if you remove "Robert" from the above paragraph, I'd have sworn Christina is complaining about Varek.

Melodrama and grandiose Heathcliffian/Othellian "How dare you impregnate her but not me!" bombastics are one thing, but when the author seems to operate under this delusion that her psycho main characters are good as opposed to her psycho villains (huh?), that's when she loses me completely.

I like this book, don't get me wrong. I think we could use more bombastic, lurid, psychotic-obsessives in the romance genre. Things just haven't been the same since VC Andrews moved to the flower attic in the sky, and if Wendy Burge wants to fill in that niche, hey, be my guest. Now if only she understands, accepts, and revels in the lurid camp-o-rama that are her characters and her overblown plot, she will be truly divine, the new Queen of Guilty Pleasures, authors of books I will never admit to loving even if you pull off my fingernails one by one.

Still, Love Me Again ain't that bad. But I'd rather just pop on Kate Bush's "Heathcliff? It's me, Cathy!" wailings on the CD player, pull down the blinds, get some iced root beer ready, and open my well-thumbed copy of Petals In The Wind. They don't make fun prime trashy stuff like they used to, I tell you.

Rating: 85


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