Love And Mayhem
by Nicole Cody, historical (2006)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21810-8


Nicole Cody is the pseudonym for Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick. You may recognize their names because they used to write historical romances under another pseudonym, May McGoldrick. Then again, you probably not, or else they won't be needing another pseudonym, heh. Love And Mayhem, like many of May McGoldrick's books, is set in Scotland (the 16th century era in this book). Unlike May McGoldrick's books, Love And Mayhem is written as a comedic romp. In fact, I'm given to understand that the plot is inspired by some American theatre thingie, although I won't know much about that since I am not familiar with American theatre.

A big problem with this story that really hampers my enjoyment of it is the very schizophrenic heroine. Right from the start she gets on my nerves to no end because the authors don't seem to know what Lady Marion McCall is supposed to be. The plot is like this: Twelve years ago, six-year old Marion was sent to a nunnery in the Isle of Skye for her own protection by her much older betrothed Sir Iain Armstrong after her father (and his own father - not the same man as Marion's father in case your thoughts are moving in that direction) along with their men were killed in the battle with English soldiers in Flodden Field. Marion didn't want to go because she wanted to stay with her family, but he insisted. Cut to day, he's back in Marion's life, intending to retrieve her and make her his bride in every way possible as a means to secure peace in both their lands. Her cousin Jack Fitzwilliam is leading a bunch of vigilantes to terrorize the people, you see, and with Marion back and married to Iain, hopefully support for Jack will wane. Marion, however, isn't going to make life easy for Iain.

Now let's see if you can figure out what Marion is thinking because I sure can't even with a marker pen and a whiteboard at hand to draw up a flow chart. First, Marion is mad at Iain for leaving her at the convent for twelve years. When Iain shows up, Marion then says that she's furious with him because he dumped him here when she wanted to be with her family. Iain told her then that he had to put her here because her family - an uncle who's on his way to becoming senile and two half-witted aunts - were in no way capable of protecting her. It seems like after twelve years Marion still refuses to accept that line of reasoning. Then she admits that her uncle and aunts can be funny in the head. Yet she is still mad that Iain refused to leave her with her family twelve years ago, fancy that. And then she claims that Iain hates her family because she believes that he has heard rumors about her family. These convoluted reasonings are the reason why Marion would subsequently act like a spoiled brat around Iain, kicking him and flouncing and stomping her foot.

Iain then shows her some sexual jollies and Marion capitulates faster than you can make a joke about idiots needing to get laid. She then miraculously starts to agree with him on everything. Yes, her family is probably funny in the head. Iain is right. Yes, Iain makes sense now. Iain is right. Talk about Marion being easy, eh? Show her some sexual jollies and she's putty in his hands.

I'm all for Marion being sensible, however, so hey, I don't care if she's as easy as ABC if that's what it takes for her to stop acting like a child. Marion still confuses me though. The authors can't seem to decide whether Marion should be an addled nitwit or an intelligent woman, hence scenes like she very stupidly calling attention to herself when enemies are about to attack Iain and Marion shockingly managing to fend for herself and send these enemies running. Marion is sensible enough to understand that if her cousin is the one plotting to kill her she has to get Iain to protect her with the men and the resources he has at his command, yet at the same time she is infuriatingly stupid enough to insist on staying with her senile uncle and two absent-minded dotty aunts in a big castle with nobody around to defend them all in times of danger when she knows that her life is in danger.

And it goes on and on to the point that I really don't know what to make of Marion. She alternates between being very sensible and mindnumbingly stupid that I end up feeling so confused.

Iain is alright as a hero but I suppose even Bert and Ernie will be alright next to the mess of contradictions that is Marion. It is about the late third in the book when the story shifts from Marion giving Iain all kinds of problems to the two of them becoming united against a common foe that the story finally gains some semblance of coherence but by then it's too late. I already have a headache trying to figure out Marion's "Look, I'm braindead! Ha, I did something smart. Oops, I'm braindead again. Ha, ha, gotcha!" antics so by that point I'm just wishing for this story to end quickly so that I place my forehead against the surface of the desk and moan in pain.

Character inconsistency can be a problem in some of the authors' books in the past but never to the extent shown in Love And Mayhem. I don't know how the McGoldricks work as a writing team but I wonder whether there is some communication mishaps during the writing of this book. Marion doesn't have to be to so batcrap-crazily inconsistent, surely? It is as if the two authors have different ideas as to how Marion should be as a character, hence poor Marion exhibiting a moron/smart Jekyll-and-Hyde split personality in this story.

I honestly don't know what to make of this story because from the first page to last, I'm too confused by Marion to fully get involved in the story. Whenever she seems to settle into a consistent personality, she will do something out-of-character and confuse me all over again. I don't know if the problem is due to the two authors having different ideas of how this story should turn out but whatever the cause of the problem is, I hope they iron out the kinks that need to be ironed in the next book. I don't know about the love in Love And Mayhem but I can certainly vouch for the mayhem part. And I don't mean that in a good way.

Rating: 48


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