Amarantha
by Melanie Jackson, historical (2001)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4900-7


Melanie Jackson is increasingly getting the hang of blending mythology and folklore with romance. Amarantha features a delightful heroine Amarantha Stanhope that actually comes off a human being and not just a pastiche of Regency heroine clichés. It's just that in Amarantha, more often than not nothing more exciting than a near-dead turtle's heartbeat is happening.

Melancholic Amarantha may just want to marry for love, but this heiress is no ninny. When the Season gets too overbearing, she packs up and leaves. She's an heiress, and she knows men will want her even if she is snaggle-toothed, her face covered with pus-filled pustules, or worse. She decides to take a nice vacation at her uncle's estate in Cornwall.

In Cornwall, ooh, a hunky rector awaits. Tamlane Adair is all brawn and glorious, and Amy here decides that he is just the bomb. He is it. She isn't above a fling with her holiday rector, which makes a delicious contradiction to Tamlane's sobriety. He sees her, he wants her, and he starts planning their wedding already.

Of course, there's a wee problem of Tamlane smuggling... no wait, that's a spoiler. I'll just say there is a slight political conflict thingie that Tamlane is carrying on the sly.

Tamlane and Amy must be one of the most understanding couples I've read. Nothing can make a dent on their understanding. When they marry under circumstances that may cause Amy to have a hissyfit, Amy understands. She looks forward to the marriage, in fact, because Tamlane is good, honest, respects her, and understands her. Tamlane too understands if they have to postpone the bedding. They have all the time in the world, because they understand. These two people may start out adamant commitment-phobic, but when they see other other, it's a snap to readjust their priorities.

Even when Amy finds out what Tamlane is doing, she doesn't throw a temper tantrum. He's her husband, and he doesn't even try to lie to her, after all.

Needless to say, the conflicts here are mainly external ones.

The lack of conflict can be a welcome relief, as is the author's graceful blending of local Cornish myths and all into the romance. But the pace is so sedate, fast forwarding only towards the late third, that I find it too easy to put the book down. Amarantha is a nice, leisurely vicarious trip to Wales. If the author has varied the pace better, instead of cramming all the external conflicts late into the story, I would really love this one. The heroine alone, not the usual virginity/herb/marriage-mad Regency ditz, is a welcome relief, and the hero is just cute. Too bad this story puts me to sleep as easily as it entertains me.

Rating: 85


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