by Nicole Burnham, contemporary (2003)
Silhouette Romance, $3.99, ISBN 0-373-19663-6
The Knight's Kiss is going so well. I am having a good time. I am even starting to believe that Harlequin ain't too bad after all. Then it happens. The heroine announces that she's a 28-year old virgin. I have no problems with virgins, but the reason this particular heroine, Princess Isabella of San Rimini, remains a virgin can't be more contrived if I happen to meet Hugh Jackman and he turns out to be my long lost amnesiac husband who has scoured the world looking for me in our upcoming TV soap series Contrivance Country.
Isabella's virginity shtick doesn't hold water. She says she's a virgin because the tabloids are always on her and she doesn't want to taint her family legacy. All will be okay if her brothers aren't renowned womanizers in their own books. How nice - are we now saying that the onus of "purity" and "responsibility" is now on the woman?
Because of this contrivance - which becomes a major plot line to keep the heroine and hero away - my enjoyment is totally ruined. The previously stereotypical but at least above average in the brain department heroine turns into a sad walking cliché.
The story is like this: Isabella hires the mysterious collector Nick Black to help her with the inventory of the antiques in the palace. There's a good reason why Nick knows so much about the history of San Rimini: he's actually a knight in the 12th century cursed to live until he finds a way to break the curse. The way to break the curse, apparently, is to sleep with a plot contrivance.
The sexual tension is decent, the characters interact nicely with each other, but this book is operating under one giant contrivance. It's a contrivance I particularly dislike, so I never actually manage to overlook it to enjoy this book freely. Every few pages, I find myself muttering in disgust about "silly heroines" and "stupid virginity excuses". If there ever is a poster kid for potentially good (if predictable) book ruined by unnecessary sexual contrivances in the heroine, this book is it.
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