by Donna Fletcher, historical (2001)
Jove (Irish Eyes), $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13043-5
Irish Hope is a tribute to withering lilies. It is a story of a waif-like young beauty and her trembling, mangy dog determined to see the True Ireland. A courageous tale of a highborn woman who wants to find her destiny - and if she has to be coddled and pampered by everyone while she's blissfully wandering around town in her own sweet way, so be it. It is also a story of a man who doesn't think himself able to fall in love, only lust, only to have his potent heart overcame with lust and love in a bouquet of praises, the most prominent being She's so innocent.
Hope (really!) is the lady in question. Described as pretty, short, and breasts you can barely cup with your hands, she is nonetheless an attractive candidate for marriage. She's a direct descendant of the High King, people! But before she marries out of duty, she decides to cut short her hair, dress up as a lad, and go see Ireland.
Our hero Colin is summoned to find this woman. He and his gang of buddies are about to give up when they stumble upon this scrawny boy Harold and "his" dog Lady Gwenth. Actually, Hope, sorry, Harold tries to rob the men of their food - apparently the fun excursion all over Ireland isn't as fun as it seemed. Colin takes pity on the "lad" and lets "him" tag along with them as they look for Hope.
Uhm. Yeah. Harold/Hope is one of those irritating saintly creatures with a verbose quip for everything Irish. But at the same time, she doesn't hesitate to do stupid things to prove herself as "one of the guys", although more often than not Colin and gang have to help her clean the mess she causes. And Colin and gang are strangely oblivious to our "laddie"'s going off privately to wee-wee.
Never mind. I am still okay with this silly story so far. Let me whack myself in the head until I can't think straight - and then this premise becomes way more palatable. Once Hope gets exposed for the chit she is, now that is when things get really ugly. I am bombarded with Saint Hope's Innocence and Purity. She doesn't know how to kiss... look at her coyly hiding her maidenly treasures! How sweet. How innocent! How pure! Where's the air bag?
In a way, Irish Hope is reminiscent of those old folktales of noble princesses cutting their hair and running off to play laddie. Joan of Arc did it. Mulan did it. But none of them would have pulled it off if they walk away with stars in their eyes like Hope does. This story wants it both ways: a heroine who travels in the dirt yet remains untouched by what she experiences and remains a child-like woman in all ways that counts. You may call that purity. I call it "out of touch with reality".
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