How To Kiss A Hero
by Sandy Hingston, historical (2000)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23534-0


I won't go on about the historical anachronisms in this story. I'm quite flexible when it comes to this sort of thing. I won't bat an eyelid if a hero pulls out an AK-47 in 18th century London and spray the baddies with bullets. But I must say little of what the characters do in How To Kiss A Hero makes sense, and that really hinders my enjoyment of this story a lot.

How To Kiss A Hero is the first is a series called School For Scandal. The school in question, Mrs Treadwell's Academy for the Elevation of Young Ladies, is started by Mrs Treadwell and Christiane, Countess d'Oliveri as some sort of defiance against their lot. They would teach their students womanly arts side by side with some most unladylike survival skills in the society. The students will be taught to follow their dreams and heart, maximize their talent, and be who they are.

One of their students, Nichola Hainesworth, wants to be a soldier so that she can be with her twin brother in bashing Napoleon's soldiers, She is reluctant to be learning sissy feminine stuff, but Christiane manages to bribe her into staying by giving her fencing lessons.

One Christmas holiday, Nichola and a friend visits Mrs Treadwell's daughter - a countess - with Mrs Treadwell. Nichola meets a wounded soldier, Lord Brian Boru, and sparks fly. But another suitor is making the eyes at Nichola too. What is a lady to do?

Well, Nichola's answer is to boink Boru in a seedy room. I don't know - talk about easy. The first time they kiss, they end up totally naked and sweaty on the floor. I know Nichola's a tomboy, but surely all her mother's nagging and Mrs Treadwell's lectures on reputation has penetrated her skull somewhat? Easy, easy, easy.

Likewise, Nichola goes around flaunting conventions stupidly, such as engaging in a public fencing match with a man, telling everyone who listens how she ride astride in her school, and flirting around fast and loose with her reputation. Okay, she's 18, maybe she has the right to be immature. But the fact that Anthony, her suitor, encourages her even as he wants to marry her, that's stretching it a bit.

And the fact that Christiane machinates Nichola's rendezvous with Boru borders on cruelty, really - surely she, who runs the academy, wouldn't abet her student's ruination? She herself told Nichola that "changes come slowly". I sincerely doubt encouraging her student's defloration would help oil the rusty wheels of change. If this is a modern boarding school, boy, would lawsuits fly!

And Nichola can be irritating in her behavior. She wants to be a rebel, she breaks all rules, but when she really needs to stand up for herself, she can't. No matter what she does, in the end, she too is a victim of the rules she chaffs at. She hates all feminine fripperies, but she feels inferior in presence of more feminine women. Understandable behavior, really, but when too many chapters are spent on Nichola acting like a total teenager, it only drives home why I don't like teenage heroines. They're wishy-washy.

Hence, the story never comes to life until after Chapter 14. Before that it's like reading a 1800s version of a 18-year old girl's Dear Diary.

Boru is a sympathetic man, a man who desperately seeks to regain the virility and charisma he once had when he wasn't limping. His breaking heart when he sees Nichola dance and flirt with men who have the full use of both their legs is heartrending. Boru, however, stands tall and proud (err, yeah, I mean that too), and it is he who rescues this story from being a total snooze-bore.

This book gets a 74.


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