Wicked Angel
by Shirl Henke, historical (2001)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4854-X


Alexander Blackthorne is a half-American Indian in Regency London. Jocelyn "Joss" Woodbridge is a zealous social reformer who follows her preacher father in his daily preaching to the (most unreceptive) riff-raff crowds. Alex first met Joss when he rescued her from a riot she and her father incited on the London docks. He marries her when her father dies and her guardian decides to wed her to a syphilic old geezer. I'm assuming Alex's own pole-vaulting through the demimondaine still leaves him free from syphilis. But hey, he's young, so I guess that's something.

I really don't know how to give the synopsis any further, really, short of revealing some plot spoilers. Let's just say the story takes place from London to the wilderness of American Indian plains. Lots of action, lots of hot love, and not one iota of this story is believable, at least to me.

I love a good rake-prim heroine pairing, but I'm also a hard-sell on these sort of opposites-attract tales, because most authors just don't go deep enough to create a realistic attraction between the heroine and hero. I put the heroine first in that sentence because to me, that's the crux of this type of relationship: why would a prim and virtuous heroine be attracted to a rake that is the antithesis of everything she believes in? She'd better tell me she loves the thrill of danger. Or that she secretly wants to be bad, really bad. And she loves the sex, definitely.

But Joss' attraction is one of those at-first-sight thingie. Hello? If a woman is so fixated on being good, I doubt she will even want this type of men. For sex, maybe, long term, no way, and we all know heroines like Joss don't do the sex thing unless she's cornered in a bedroom with no where else to look except at that thing. (Let's not go to the morning-after guilt and hysteria.)

Sentences like "If his eyes had not twinkled with amusement at her stiffening demeanor, Joss would have dismissed him as another condescending, stupid male, but how could she when he smiled that way?" only drive home how, er, not-too-bright the lightbulb shines in the vacant hallways of Joss' zealous do-gooder mind. She knows he is baiting her, she knows his compliments to her are back-handed and bitter, and she knows he is a rake. Then she tells me, Alex's wife will be a lucky woman, but alas, she is not the woman for him, and I go "Hello?"

In my estimation, Joss' age should be somewhere around 13, for her "true love" seems more akin to our sheltered heroine seeing a guy for the first time in her life. Alas, Joss is not 13, which makes her one for the "duh" annals. How could one be sheltered when one is exposed to the more disreputable parts of town on a daily basis anyway? Again, let me say, "Not smart. Not smart. Nobody at home upstairs."

Maybe, if the author has told me that Joss spends her time ogling the handsome unshaven ruffians while her father preaches, fantasizing about hot sex with some anonymous sexy pirate, I would find her attraction to Alex more believable. But no, Joss is a typical clueless asexual heroine all clad in white (or something). Hence I have no idea what she sees in Alex, and I end up just reading the story on autopilot. The action scenes are pretty good, by the way.

But a romance that requires me to suspend my disbelief because the characters seem more like cardboards than real human beings with depths - well, it's already a goner from the get-go.

Rating: 50


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