Grand Design
by Karen Fox, historical/time-travel (2001)
Zebra Ballad (Hope Chest), $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6903-0


Okay, I understand the notion of falling in love with a guy's picture. But when a woman uses this so-called grand love to let a man walk all over her, now that's sad. No, not sad, tragic. It's a Jerry Springer Trailer Park Special waiting to happen. I don't know whether to hoot with excitement-cum-derision or to call the social services hotline.

Cynda Madison is an artist commissioned to restore the portrait of one Prince Dmitri Karakov. She sees the painting and wow, it's love. She gets so obsessed that she reads up on this guy and is shocked to discover that he was killed in 1889. Oh, no. Also, Cynda is puzzled. She can't find the name plate on the portrait. When she does find it in a magical hope chest in the inn she is staying/working, the tag sends her back to 1889. She is met by Mrs Sparrow, who is like some sort of time-travel diplomat and reception party lady (sorry, I didn't read the previous two books in this series).

Soon, Cynda is working as a maid in Chesterfield Hotel. And her heart skips a beat when she realizes that, omigosh, omigosh *insert impression of a hysterical 13-year old girl meeting N Sync live for the first time here* the Prince is alive!

Now, I understand that if the author makes Dmitri a reasonable man, Cynda will tell him that he is about to die, he will remove himself out of the Hotel, and the story will end after three chapters. But gawd, what a jerk that Dmitri is. And what a dumb airhead Cynda is to let him treat her like trash. He is rude to her, he causes her to hurt her leg, and he visits her only out of some condescending version of pity in his heart. And what does Cynda do? "Omigosh, when is here coming to see me? Will he come and see me? Will he? He will? He will? Oh, oh, oh, oh!" Pathetic.

Now, Dmitri has a brother, Alex, who flirts, smiles, and treats Cynda well. What does Cynda do? Pines for Dmitri. When she finally says a comeback to Dmitri's rudeness, the author just have to use phrases like "with an insolence she didn't feel" to tell me that underneath it all, Cynda isn't taking no smelly-stuff from jerk males, no, she is actually trying not to wet her undies while Dmitri is treating her like diseased beef.

And of course they make love. To Cynda, this is a perfect joining of souls, one she will remember forever and ever... while Dmitri is thinking what a hot mistress she will make. The ensuing fiasco is like a train wreck - painful and traumatic for me, the reader, to follow.

There's some subplot about treachery and politics, but oh, I can't bring myself to care. I am too busy staring aghast at how low Cynda will sink to get some royalty stuffed inside her. It's like, I don't know, reading about those silly puppy movies where the puppy just won't stop trailing its master until the master has beaten it into a bloody pulp or something. Of course, Dmitri marries his number one airhead groupie in the end and impregnates her with enough royal babies to make her delirious with ecstasy. Good for her. Now for me to watch some wholesome funny kiddie shows on TV to feel good about life again.

Rating: 43


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