My Reckless Surrender
by Anna Campbell, historical (2010)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-168431-9
Diana Carrick, the heroine of Anna Campbell's My Reckless Surrender, is a cruel, greedy, and grasping mercenary whore. Now, you know me - I have no problems with mercenary whores especially if they are adorably wicked and amusing to follow. Unfortunately, Ms Campbell tries to pass off Diana as a hapless victim, and thus mutating that wretched imbecile into a mercenary whore by accident. And if there is anything worse than a mercenary whore, it just has to be a brainless gerbil who does despicable things because she is too stupid to do anything else.
Diana wants Cranston Abbey, the nice big house in which she works as an informal chatelaine for the owner, Lord Burnley. Never mind that she has no right to it, she wants it because that is the only way - only way! - for her father to live comfortably in his own age. Unfortunately, the predictably nasty Lord Burnley will only give it to her if he marries her, and he will do that when Diana gets herself knocked up by Lord Burnley's bastard son Tarquin Vale, the Earl of Ashcroft. (Yes, the bastard son who is also an Earl - clearly, every man needs to be at least an Earl nowadays to be loved.) Yes, Lord Burnley is impotent but he wants his heir to have bits of his genome, so Ashcroft is the best baby batter donor as far as he is concerned. Thus, Diana tearfully sets out to seduce that man.
You'd think it would be easy to seduce a man who has apparently rogered every other woman in London, but alas, the story will only be 10 pages long if all Diana has to do is to bend over and flip up her skirt. Ashcroft is undergoing that emo phase where he's bored with every available pleasure in town, so naturally he turns down Diana's charmless invitation. Still, despite being a widow, Diana exudes such a child-like aura of innocence that captivates Ashcroft so much, he is soon ready to go at it.
Of course, we can't have Diana actually enjoy his amorous attentions. So when she likes how he kisses her, she immediately starts wailing in her head that she must be a whore. When he almost has sex with her against the wall, she wails that she shouldn't be taken against the wall like a whore. So he takes her to bed, and she now screeches that all she wants is a quick tumble because she doesn't want him to be nice to her. So which is which? I don't know, and I don't think that imbecile Diana knows. All she does is to be contrary, repeating the same thing - she's no whore, she shouldn't be enjoying his touch - so many times, with increasingly hysterical fever pitch, in the first half or so of the book that she comes off like a complete lunatic who should have been locked away in a padded cell. Her constant self-flagellation, guilt, and hysteria over every single thing makes this book an excruciating read.
The thing is, she is a whore. She's a whore who is whoring herself for a house. She doesn't need the house, she just decides that that house will be good for her father so she goes to this dramatic extent to get that house. A small house wouldn't do - that greedy whore wants that big house! Ms Campbell seems to labor under the impression that if she made Diana whine, wail, and excoriate herself long enough, I'd overlook that. This story would have been much better if Diana had embraced her inner whore and ridden the hero like a champion rodeo while shrieking, "Yes! Yes! The house is mine! Anyone who disapproves can go kiss my bling-bling!" or something.
If her constant and repetitive cycle of self-flagellation and Catholic guilt behavior isn't bad enough, Diana is also as passive as a barnacle on a rock. The only thing she does with any semblance of enthusiasm is to cry. She weeps when Ashcroft finally sleeps with her only to withdraw - he doesn't want to knock up his lovers indiscriminately, after all - because oh no, she has failed - FAILED! FAILED! FAILED! WAAAAAH! WAAAH! WAAAH! - in her duty to her father, the world, and the galaxy. She likes sleeping with Ashcroft, so cue another river of tears as she hates herself for behaving like a whore. She has fallen in love with Ashcroft, so there goes another torrent of tears as she realizes that she must run away - RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY! WAAAAAH! WAAAAAH! WAAAAAH! - for Ashcroft's sake, for her daddy's sake, for... whatever. This is one romance where the heroine is simply begging to have her mouth and eyes sewn shut with rusty wires, just like in those Hellraiser movies.
Poor Ashcroft. He is whipped in this story. He loves Diana for reasons only he will know, but oh my, he literally comes crawling late in the story to stop Diana from marrying Lord Burnley. By that point, I have lost all respect for him because Diana is that kind of idiot who insists on marrying Lord Burnley due to obligations. After all, a promise is a promise, you know. In the process, she lets Ashcroft be beaten all bloody and near-dead - apparently she has no idea what will happen when Ashcroft is led away by burly thugs under her hubby-to-be's employ. Ashcroft begs her to marry him after sharing with her the heartbreaking details of his sad childhood, and she can only go, oh she can't break her promise to that evil man. Seriously, I am not making this up! While Ashcroft's pathetic display of affection is admittedly quite charming - I do like seeing a man on his knees, begging please - I really can't respect him for debasing himself like this to an indescribably stupid woman who gives mercenary whores everywhere a bad name.
The publicity material for this book describes this sordid tale as "unforgettable". It is - it's a trauma-inducing read, a spectacular example of how horrifyingly stupid a romance heroine can be. There are imbeciles, and then there is Diana Carrick, setting the new benchmark for braindead romance heroines everywhere. My Reckless Surrender... you know what? I surrender.
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