The Water Nymph
by Michele Jaffe, historical (2000)
Pocket, $22.95, ISBN 0-671-02741-7


After a laughable foray into Venetian times (which is as fun as visiting Medieval Cafe for a medieval reenactment), author Michele Jaffe decides to move on to Elizabethan England. The result? The other patrons at the Borders cafe must have thought me a lunatic with all my snorting and giggling.

Then again, The Water Nymph isn't supposed to be funny. Not the way I find it funny anyway.

The plot is already bearing too many resemblance to The Stargazer - Crispin Foscari and Sophie Champion (don't laugh) meet over the dead body of Richard Tottle, an informant. Both suspect the other, and... oh cut the crap. Let's boink, baby!

What happens is our two supposedly-intrepid spies mistrusting each other while ripping each other's clothes off. The premise of Sophie stripping naked for Crispin's "inspection" after their first meeting only to fall asleep naked in his bed is enough to make me roll my eyes. How more contrived can one get?

Turns out that's just the mildest contrivance in this mis-comedy of coincidences, bad plots, ridiculous banters passed off as sexual tensions, and enough pedestrian prose to give every snobby elitist literary journal ammunition to insult the genre. Sophie is yet another one of those "Let me do stupid things so that he can save me and we boink after the danger is passed" heroines. She loves walking naked in fountains or something, hence, the water nymph is born. Sad thing is, even that potentially poetic scene is bungled up by the author's overly purple prose.

The Water Nymph has a beautiful package, I must admit. It's just too bad that between the covers is a story that is so ridiculous in its stilted yet too bloated prose and uninteresting (even unlikeable) one-dimensional characters that it's like opening a huge parcel only to find rotten eggs inside.

Rating: 23


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