by Jen Holling, historical (2002)
Sonnet, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-3803-5
Book two in the Brides Of The Bloodstone trilogy, which revolves around three women finding love while a bad guy whines and rants incessantly about finding some stupid magical gem. Not that he does anything else but to matchmake his sisters to their hubbies while mooning over his stepmother. What a moron, eh?
The first book, by the way, stars the big sister The Mare, and it's called Tempted By Your Touch. This one tells the story of the younger sister, Fayth Graham. The plot spills over from the first book, but Jen Holling does a good job fleshing out things for newbies. The hero's sexy arm in the back cover art can't hurt either. (Don't ask.)
In this book, Stepmother Moana, or is it Mona - well, she's missing and she's the only one with clues to the stupid stone's whereabouts. After having successfully married off his elder sister in what he thought was a nefarious plan in the first book, big brother Ridley now forces his other sister to marry a lecherous old man. It's part of some plan of his to get land and help the English invade Scotland.
Fayth whines and moans that her life is now so blue after her beloved daddy died. I wonder how this beloved daddy can raise his son so whacked like that. The author says that Daddy Dearest was especially hard on Ridley because Ridley was the heir, but it still doesn't make sense. Then again, they're English, and "English" is the romance novel catchphrase for "So wot if it doesn't bloody make sense, they're English and they're bloody scums, so who gives a damn about logic?!".
In the meantime, Alex Maxwell, or Red Alex as he is known, has plans of his own. He is Scots, so who cares what he does! He's the hero! He's Scots. Anyway, he and Fayth go way back when he got drunk, mistook Fayth for an easy lady, and actually gave Fayth some jolly good kissy time. No, he's not the lecherous husband Fayth is running away from. He's Scots - he's the hero.
At one point, he declares that he doesn't murder people. He has killed many people, but he doesn't murder them. I'm still trying to figure that one out.
Anyway, you know how this story is. He kidnaps her, she dresses up as a boy, and even with unbound breasts, people all think she's a boy, gets caught, finds true love, and Ridley seethes. Along the way, Fayth, who hates Alex because she believes that he has murdered her boyfriend, learns that her late boyfriend was actually a worthless lech (yes, let's punish the girl for daring to love on her own will, Ms Holling, for we all know a woman shouldn't fall in love unless the man has pawed her drunkenly first, kidnapped her, and murdered half her kin first - that's real love), Alex is her true love (deus ex plot contrivance), and it's a brand new day for everyone.
If the story for Tamed By Your Desire is formulaic, however, I must say that the story does get going in a brisk, good pace. The romance between Alex and Fayth rings absolutely false (hate, hate, hate, love scene, love, the end) but as high drama and action, this story is a good one. Ridley is actually a delicious nutcase, even if he is lousy at strategies. Dare I wish that he will get his own story? He and his girlie whom he takes for granted and who turns the tables on him have great potential - although of course, that story will only work if the author chooses a less formulaic storyline for them.
Speaking of formulas, it is amusing to follow how Ms Holling try so hard to sidestep the land mines that litter Scottish kidnap fantasies of this sort. Fayth is really a smart woman, and there are scenes where she actually punctures the stereotypical heroines that generally populate these sort of stories. Fayth doesn't heal, she doesn't take smelly stuff from anybody, and she is a very proactive character who takes control of her own life instead of letting her man do the coddling.
But as the story progresses, Ms Holling happily steps on one land mine and another. Fayth is always wrong - her old boyfriend turning out to be turd material is just one of many examples where her attempts on being independent backfires on her - it is as if a woman who takes control of her life instead of merely reacting to circumstances around her will meet a bad end. Her escapades become more reckless and foolhardy, and in the end, big boring Stereotype Alex (the same old issues, same old bad temper, same old sex techniques, and same old way of calling the heroine "lassie" - the same old bore) comes to the rescue.
And thus dies another potentially interesting heroine, swallowed up by the quagmire of the romance formula. Let me ask again in my most weary sigh - is it so bad for a woman to actually think and do something on her own instead of waiting for Daddy/Mommy/Brother to push her into reacting? Maybe one can argue that Fayth is a proactive heroine, but when she is often wrong and sorry for it than not, I don't see any affirmative context in this story.
Still, a jolly fun romp when it comes to everything but the romance. There's danger, a compelling and pathetic villain, intrigue, and oh yeah, Ms Holling's prose really sings when she is writing the more exciting scenes. Now if Ms Holling can actually plot a three-book arc that isn't a flimsy excuse for formulaic arranged marriages and Stockholm syndrome fantasies, maybe there will something epic and more worth reading in her upcoming projects.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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