Malcolm's Honor
by Jillian Hart, historical (2000)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29119-1


Hate can be a pretty good excuse to end up in bed with that hunky stud you have fallen madly in lust with. The more you hate the way he cheats and abuses you, the harder your (increasingly) multiple ai-caramba-mama-mia's will be. Or so Ally McBeal and the ladies at Cosmopolitan tell me.

It's just too bad Malcolm's Honor tries to bluff me into believing that despite all the insults and big misunderstandings peppering this book like salt on french fries, it's love. Love my bum. I may be old, but I'm not senile.

Elinore of Evenbough is fleeing with her father and their entourage of bodyguards when they are met by Malcolm le Farouche and his gang. Eli's daddy is implicated for treason after all, and Malcolm is going to apprehend the man. Naturally, King Edward decides to wed Eli to Malcolm, the wise king he is.

But not before Eli has poisoned everyone in Malcolm's encampment in a futile and unconvincing attempt to assert her independence. Therefore, no matter how many men of Malcolm's that Eli has healed (medieval heroines are all healers, you know), Malcolm keep seeing his new wife as the new Lot's wife with Delilah's perfidy and Eve's cunning thrown in the mix. Also, we have a bad guy in the name of Caradoc. He's the King's cousin (there's always a bad seed in the royal family tree), and he has his task made easy because Malcolm and Eli would swallow everything he says. Even when Eli has been assaulted by Caradoc before and when Malcolm knows that Carry is swine.

Our intelligent twosome bicker, accuse each other of cowardice, treachery, perfidy, dishonor, bastardy, harlotry, et cetera, and does everything one could expect from an elephant and a mouse placed in a closed room. I'm quite disappointed that things didn't go all the way ala Jerry Springer with people throwing medieval chairs at each other and pulling each other's hair. This is because there is nary an intelligent motivation behind all this bitterness. If Malcolm and Eli would just open their eyes wide and think with their brains instead of their hearts or genitals, this story would be two hundred pages shorter and much easier on my senses. Then again, both have lousy childhoods, and we all know lousy childhoods are excuses for all sorts of juvenile insipidity (the Officer Krupke principle).

The sex is good, I'm told, and so's the grand passionate love at the epilogue. But I'm not buying it. All those name-callings and poisonous barb-throwing in Malcolm's Honor could work - if you ask me - if the whole tone of the book is farcical and deliberate. Like a I hate you, but damn if I want to *beep beep beep* your *beep beep* so let's *beep* you son of a *beep* story of Springer-esque proportions for my voyeuristic pleasure. But Malcolm's Honor tells me to take it seriously, which only highlight its horrible misstep when it comes to conflict overdose.

Rating: 46


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