Ecstasy
by Nicole Jordan, historical (2002)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1979-1


The Bumper Snark Special is a one-off review where the entire book is recapped. This book is unlucky in that it's chosen to receive this treatment. Needless to say, spoilers are everywhere, even the ending, yes. You know what to do if you haven't and fully intend to read the book in the future (hint: stop reading now).

This book opens with a sex scene right out of Return To The Blue Lagoon 3: When Blue Lagoons Turn Purple. It's all in italics, so it must be a dream thing, and it is. Our heroine is dreaming of a pirate boyfriend who arrives out of the waters, naked and at full mast ahoy, to stride towards her. Our Uh-so-long Andrews here swoops down on our trembling heroine's mouth, and finishes the work with his "slick shaft" piercing her "softness" (hmmm, ectoplasm?) as he grabs her hair in his fist and does the ow-ow-ow.

Raven Kendrick awakes in cold sweat. She's tingly down there, but instead of bringing herself off like a trooper, she sits back and reminisces about how her mother gave her this book, A Passion Of The Heart by Elizabeth Kendrick (a pen name for Marsha Canham?), and now she's all about fantasies of having sex with a nameless pirate.

Her maid Nan comes in and coos about how wonderful that Black Bird here is marrying the Duke of Halford. I know it's doomed. Marriages in Nicole Jordan's books don't happen unless the hero has drugged, kidnapped, lied to, seduced, and called all sorts of nasty words for prostitute on the heroine first.

Black Bird takes this opportunity to tell readers that she doesn't want love. She will marry, but no love, thanks. Her mother bore her as a result of an affair thing, and Black Bird's father never lets Black Bird forget that, while Momma expires from broken heart. Or something. Of course, Black Bird, instead of putting behind those two idiot adults' nonsense, charges ahead, fully wanting to be strong, loveless, and independent, or something. I give her three chapters before she starts whining that she's marrying only for love.

Chapter Two. Our hero Kell Lasseter charges into the gaming den he runs - or rather, the Tart with the Heart Of Gold runs it for him, he's very busy shagging women and whining - and breaks onto the scene of his brother Sean in the attempt of punishing Black Bird. He has drugged Black Bird and now is sitting in the corner, drunk and helpless. He has whips and daggers ready to punish Black Bird, who is as drugged up as the best of them, but Nicole Jordan knows that romance readers on the whole don't like anything but vanilla sex under false pretenses (on the man's part) or vanilla sex for the sake of mankind (on the woman's part), so Sean thoughtfully waits for his brother's intervention.

As it turns out, Black Bird and Seannie here have a history. Seannie loves Black Bird, but Black Bird rejects him. His version of the story is that Black Bird has ordered people to beat him bad, and he is sent into the Navy and has to do lots of hard labor as a result. Her version is that Seannie harasses her and almost assaults her, until her groom drags him away from her. She doesn't know what happens after that, and while she's grateful (yes, grateful) that he's no longer bothering her, oh, she's so sorry (yes, sorry) that Seannie has it so bad.

But her side comes out only after she, in a drugged-induce fantasy, calls Kell her pirate and they have cheesy piratey sex, where in typical Nicole Jordan romances where the hero's denial of his own pleasure is a true sign of nobility, he hand-shags her and then sleeps next to her. Then, he gets horny and finally, after her plaintive and pitiful begging to "make it stop" and "please", finally gives it to her (but not to the point of hymenal perforation though).

"This is romantic," Ms Jordan intones.

I know. I'll go to a bar, buy a guy a drink, and pop some of those pills into my glass so that I'll get swoozy, he'll take me home, and ravish me utterly in a romantic date rape of my life. Because every woman needs one of those days.

Since she is a virgin, he immediately have doubts about her slut status. I mean, sure, he knows his brother is a slutty troublemaker, but there's no way his brother will assault a virgin, right? Because in romance novels, rakes only sleep with willing adulterous wives who deserve their crap. Virgins can't lie! Virgins can't do wrong!

Maybe she's a virgin but she's experienced, he decides. This is self-justification at its finest.

Morning after. Black Bird is probably innocent, he decides, and finally decides to marry her now that she is ruined. Because we all know that no matter what a man has done to a woman, all is okay once he marries her. Whack me, rape me, smack me, lie to me, bitch to me, anything baby, just marry me.

Raven doesn't want to marry, but she sits down and does some intelligent thinking. Let me reread that paragraph again so that I am not imagining things. Ah yes, Black Bird is grateful that Kell has saved her from his brother's violence. He has "succored her need in her dire need without taking advantage of her terrible vulnerability. How many other men would have acted with such nobility?" I sputter and almost choke to death on that last one. Are you serious, Ms Jordan? Hey, where I come from, horniness isn't classified as "dire need" - try starvation or utter poverty - and I really don't know what to say about that nobility thing. Maybe this crude gesture of mine will suffice.

Besides, she doesn't want to implicate Kell and put him in prison, this Black Bird thinks. What good will it do? (Oh, I don't know. How about putting Seanie in prison instead, huh?)

Her grandpa isn't too happy. Kell is a gamester, Irish, and oh yes, rumors have it that Kell murdered his own uncle. He will have his servants throw Kell out if Black Bird didn't lie and tell him that Kell has rescued her from a group of thugs who wanted to assault her. Why is she lying? Why is she doing this to herself? Is there any sign of intelligence on this planet? Hello? Hello?

Black Bird's great-aunt is against the upcoming nuptials as well. For once, I'm actually in agreement with these caricature nasty family relative plot devices.

Poor Black Bird. She is dismayed! How could she hurt her relatives like this? Oh, the pain. Maybe she should flee England instead?

"Flee, you stupid dingbat!" I cry. "Yes, by all means, please flee! Take off your shoes and run into the sea and don't come back!"

But fleeing, she reasons, will shame her family.

Yes, you were kidnapped, you were assaulted, but in the end, you lie to protect the villains so that Granpa and Granaunt can still go to parties and have fun. Lovely, truly lovely. It's only page 81, and already I want to torch this book and flush the ashes down the toilet.

But she can't marry!

In the end, she asks Grandpa and Grandaunt to just let her leave. She has brought Shame, she admits it, and she humbly seeks forgiveness. She will leave them all and die after enduring a life of despair and grief. A truly nice thought.

But Kell, watching her, revises his opinions of her. What a dangerous temptress she is (he must be on crack), true, but my, what a woman! Defending his scum brother, trembling with (I quote) "courageous anger" (memo to self: if suffering and being a martyr is true courage, I'm gonna be the biggest coward in the land - grab that Nicole Jordan, cops, yes, she's the one responsible for my misery, grab her, grab her!) He has to ask the others to leave him and Black Bird alone.

Naturally, once alone, Black Bird gasps over the wounds he receive from her grandpa's servants, and worries over it. A martyr and a healer wannabe. I'm so touched. I'm touching my chest because I tell you, all this courageous, weepy women are making my heart beat so hard, I think an angina is calling me, judging from my elevated stress levels.

She asks him not to marry her.

He realizes that he's honor-bound to, after what his brother did to her.

I dunno. I'll take lawsuits over marriages, any time any day, but hey, I'm just me.

But he still thinks her a wretch for breaking his brother's heart. Yes, breaking a rake's heart is such a cruel, cruel thing to do, worse than sleeping with married women and breaking these women's hearts and their husbands'. Worse than kidnapping a woman, drugging her, and then threatening to whip and flagellate her. Worse than having sex with a drugged up woman who doesn't know what she is saying or doing. Oh no, breaking a man's heart? Die, you Whore of Babylon, die in the fires of cleansing anguish and rot in hell, bwahahahaha!

But his conscience compels him to charge on. He must marry her! He must!

I sob brokenly. These people keep changing their thoughts and opinions again and again like fickle-minded idiots. Where's the consistency? Aargh! I want to end this ordeal and go play Nintendo. But for the people who voted for this book to be given the snark treatment, I have obligations. Oh shucks, now I sound like Black Bird and Kell. Kill me, people. Kill me now.

They finally come into an agreement.

He will marry her.

She will not press charges against his brother.

Her reputation will be intact.

Hmm, if you ask me, I don't think that, were I'm Black Bird (which I'm not, hallelujah!), I will be getting the better part of deal.

Instead of asking for some settlement, our heroine, the selfless noble dingbat she is, just asks quietly whether he really did kill his uncle.

He asks her, if he says he has a reason for it, will she believe it?

She says yes, her own brother is accused of murder once, but he has very good reason to murder.

I know, I know. The man porked you when you are drugged, his brother drugged you and kidnapped you and wanted to mutilate you after he failed in assaulting you... hey, if he says he murders because he has good reason to do so, this Kell, who am I to disagree?

I sob brokenly again and clutch my bottle of XO like a life support in my dire agony.

Finally, she gives him some thought (snort) and says, yes, marriage in this case is her only option (that's me you hear sobbing brokenly again) and yes, she'll marry him, because if she doesn't marry, she'll be a social pariah. Not that she wants to go to parties (as we all know, good virtuous women don't party, they just get drugged up and screwed), she wants her family not to be shamed by her.

And to think, we look in horror at those people in barbaric third world countries that kill rape victims for "shaming" the family. Here is a woman who will no doubt commit hara-kiri just to protect her unappreciative family's reputation.

"A noble and worthy heroine," Nicole Jordan intones.

I've run out of crude gestures that can be done with ten fingers. I'll need another extra ten fingers.

But wait! A "flash of rebellion" in her eyes as she mischievously reveals that she's also marrying him to spite her great aunt.

Kell decides to discourage her now.

"What the hell!" I shriek. "Didn't he want her to marry him just a few pages ago?"

He suggests that she leaves the country.

She says that she doesn't want to live a life of outcast, a very fate she was contemplating just a FREAKING few pages ago.

And pray, what brought upon such glorious epiphany in our characters? Lightning strike? No, it's the power and strength of Ms Jordan's mighty Characterization Runneth All Over superpower. By the power of Greyskull, look, Ms Jordan has the power! Woo-hoo, yee-haw, sob.

Then, seeing his dark face, she asks whether he has second thoughts. Duh.

Maybe he can keep a mistress after their marriage?

That's it. I'm not recapping the next few pages of equally tedious, inane chatter that is basically these two morons trying to outdo each other in Magnanimous "I Suffer For Your Sake" BS talk. Skip, skip, skip. Skip it!

Chapter Six. Kell sits and watch Black Bird talk with her grandpa and grandaunt, and reflects on his throbbing thingie that has, amazingly, remained throbbing throughout nine pages of painful martyrdom chit-chat that almost have me slitting my wrists. He doesn't want to marry her (at least, that's what he's saying now), but he's glad he did, because now she will never be an outcast (never mind that he is asking her to leave the country a few pages ago) and he doesn't want her Pain on his conscience (how magnanimous of him).

Which leads him to reminisce about his own parents - all this while he is still having a chubby, mind you - and his mother is an Irish daughter of a doctor that fell in love with her father's patient. Upon being widowed, she is banished back to Ireland and poor Seanie and Kellie here are thrown in the care of Uncle Willie. Uncle Willie is also a sodomite who "violated his charges", and yes, watch out, Robin Schone is so going to sue Nicole Jordan's ass. "That's my plot, Jordan!"

So, he decides, banishing the thoughts of giant hairy willies looming over his trembling kiddie self, he's so glad he's marrying her. He can't just stand aside and watch her suffer. Even though only a few pages, no a few paragraphs earlier that he says that he doesn't want to marry her.

After a long lying down on the sofa, where I pull my knees to my chin and just stare at nothing in numbed and stupefied daze, shell shocked at such bad, bad, bad and shoddy writing, I finally decide to get back to this book. The better I get it over with, the better I can wash this book off my systems. (Shameless plug: You people reading this should spare a thought for my pain and suffering. Go buy some stuff from Amazon using the links below and give me some commission so that I can buy myself some meds.)

He laughs. Mind you, this is while Raven is still arguing with her family members in the same room. They must think him a lunatic in a better book with better characterization and plotting. He laughs because he has never imagined that he will marry a noble lady. I laughed the way people do when staring at death in the eyes when he tells me, "But at least Raven Kendrick wasn't the typical wide-eyed schoolmiss without an intelligent thought in her head." And I roll around laughing like a complete lunatic - a description that comes close to being a reality several times in the last few hours - when he adds, "... but he would rather risk being shot again rather than be tied to a milksop for life." What, he's going to drug her up for life and screw her silly?

He doesn't want to be tempted by his life. He'll just sex her one time and that's it.

Now we hear what Black Bird and company are twittering. Grandaunt is now championing the upcoming nuptials, suggesting that the murder thing is just vicious rumor. Apparently it's not just Black Bird and Kell who suffer from schizophrenic tendencies. Grandpa calls Kell a fortune hunter. Kell is offended - he has lots of money, and his properties he has given to his brother as Seanie's sufferings at the hands of a sodomite uncle. And what about Black Bird's suffering, I want to ask. Does anybody care even if Black Bird doesn't? No?

Oh, spare me.

"He's Irish!" Granpa rails.

Raven breaks in. Her father is half-Irish too (uh, I thought she doesn't like her father?) so that means Kell is good enough to marry her too! (Yes, I want to marry the man who takes advantage of me when I was drugged too.)

Kell is angry. How dare these people say he's not good enough for her because he's Irish? No, you twat, you're not good enough because you're a freak of a jerk. But you're good enough for Black Bird. Between the both of you, your kids will make inbred trolls look like geniuses of Aristotle proportions.

"Bigotry is bad," Ms Jordan warns us all. "But date rape is fun!"

An outraged Kell now decides that he must marry Black Bird for the sake of Irishmen all over the world. Irishmen who are suffering and starving at this very moment will no doubt appreciate his noble gestures. "Eat good food, Kellie, and pork that wife, we starvin' potato sweat shop workers of the world salute and support thee!" And we wonder why people sometimes support Communism.

To cut the rest of the tedious nonsense short, they decide to concoct a true love alibi to explain the hasty engagement. They fell in love while meeting in the Caribbean. Grandpa insists on prenups. Black Bird and her aunt say there is no need. "I trust [Kell] to [keep his word to leave her fortunes untouched, and may I paraphrase, even if he runs a gaming house and has screwed me when I was drugged, I trust him!]," Black Bird says. At this point, I've run out of blood, and I'm just coughing dry.

Seriously? How more stupid can this story? How much lower can Ms Jordan set the standards for inconsistent characterization, and worse, just plain stupid - S, T, U, P, I, and D - plotting? Any lower and we will be digging into the earth's core.

Grandfather warns Kell that he will hurt Kell if Kell hurts her.

Raven actually bristled at "the injustice" of Grandpa's remarks.

You know what? Let's just move on.

Skip, skip, skip. If you think you are missing something, buy the book yourself. I am not recapping in detail Black Bird's assertions that she can shoot, she loves Irish (especially those that date rape her), she doesn't need servants, she can take of herself... aaah, no, way, no bloody way. You want to read all that, go do it yourself. I have my limits.

Skip, skip, skip.

Raven writes a letter to her Duke hubby-to-be. Remember him? Me neither. She tells the Duke that she is in love with her date rapist when they met in the Caribbean over some lovely drugs or something, and the Duke must be grateful of his close escape. Black Bird hates lying - of course, of course - but she tells me that this is necessary evil on her part to save her reputation and salvage the Duke's pride.

Also, she doesn't love the Duke, so it ain't so bad.

Apparently Ms Jordan has forgotten just a few chapters back that she has written how Black Bird doesn't care about love.

Her groom protests. Kell has a reputation.

She protests that the reputation of the man who has date-raped her is exaggerated. She should know.

And she adds, Kell is nothing like Seanie! She doesn't elaborate, but I guess it's because while Seanie provides the drug, Kell provides the meat stick. It's all a question of demand, I guess. Hate the dope dealer, but love the syringe. Or something. I dunno. I'm getting woozy in the head trying to figure out the idiots in this story.

The groom leaves, having completed his transparent Let's Provide Raven With An Opportunity to Reminisce role, and now Raven reminisces. Oh, her late stepfather, what a bad man! He wouldn't let ten-year old Black Bird wear a new dress and go to a party! Sob, sob, sob. Her stomach churns at such cruelty as well as her stepfather's threat to tell the world that she is a bastard - oh, the cruelty of it all! So much bigotry and nastiness, I swear, what is the world coming too that we imprison assaulters like Kell and Seanie but let the bigots and bad parents run free?

Nicole Jordan for President of the United States!

She (still a ten-year old kid) then runs into the stables when she meets this lovely, comforting groom, and awwww.

So now, back to the present. Black Bird always fear of being publicly outed as a bastard, but now she knows she will never belong because - oh! She's marrying Kell, oh, oh, oh! Uh, Black Bird, weren't you the one saying that marrying Kell will protect your reputation and safeguard your acceptance just, uh, a few pages back? But she steels herself to face a lifelong loneliness, if this is the price she must pay for... uh, something. Ms Jordan never made that clear. She just cares that I know her characters are needlessly suffering for some vague, amorphous reasons.

She goes to bed, and then imagines her fantasy lover. Marsha Canham makes an appearance to slap her for being such a stupid ninny that Black Bird shames fans of swashbuckling romances everywhere. Raven wakes up and oh! She has a name for her pirate fantasy now - Kell. And Kell is there looming over her. "It's time," he intones.

Oh boy, duty sex. Think of England, dear. I know I will.

Chapter Seven. Ding dong nuptials time. What, you expect a sex scene? Marriage first, people. Raven says that this small wedding isn't what she dreamed of. Coming from a woman who claims that she doesn't care in the early chapters, this is rich. But at this point, the only consistent things about this story, I suspect, is the rigidity of Kell's erection and my increasing loathing for this boo-boo turkey of a book.

She can't eat. She's nervous.

Kell wonders why. Last night - would you believe that only one day has passed in this story? - she was so hot for him. Uh, moron, last night she was drugged. She's marrying you because she was drugged. This is what happens when you do drugs. Kids, pay close attention. You don't want to marry your dirty skankfiend dope dealer now, do you? But no, he believes that she's like that because she doesn't like Irishness. Seriously, yeah, I mean, if I marry the man who did you-know-what to me, the first thing I take offense to is his nationality. Yeah right. So he gets mad at her. She loves her Irish groom (as a Daddy figure), but she can't love him? The temerity of the wench!

Ms Jordan has him wondering why he should care when he intents to leave her after tonight. I smile, hoping that she will start trying to be a bit more consistent from now on. Then Kell starts saying that he doesn't want her, but he wants her and the whole thing slides down the stupid chute again.

Bedroom. Raven asks if this is where Kell conducts his orgies. He asks her what she knows of orgies. She mentions the Hellfire club. He says that it's been awhile since he had orgies. He prefers one bed partner at a time, and he doesn't like perversions. He just loves... you can probably predict what I'm going to say, can't you?

Nicole Jordan: "Look, you old hag, I've completely rewritten, recast, and reshape my characters' personalities from paragraph to paragraph in the last six chapters. Can't you just imagine that I've had my characters 'forgotten' that incident? Does the phrase 'broken records' mean anything to you? Who says I'm not consistent? My inconsistency is definitely consistent!"

Okay.

Black Bird finally admits that she was drugged last night. Yeah right, that explains why should marry him. She confesses that she has a secret pirate lover in her imagination, and he gets all indignant. He's the real thing! She adds, she creates a fantasy because it's safe - she won't fall in love with a fantasy. She elaborates that the "carnal skills" she did on him last night was from her mother's book.

Let's just skip the rest of the tedious babble. He has some scars, she asks about them, blah blah, the cows come home from the fields, the cat jumps over the moon - or is it a cow? - anyway, here comes the sex.

His leg is injured so she has to be on top.

Kisses, pettings, et cetera.

She realizes that he has "absurdly long lashes" - like, what? Ten feet eyelashes?

He strips her.

She trembles.

Suckling, touching, et cetera. Two fingers up, thumb on the blast-off button, awaiting signal for take-off. Woosh!

Like the first strains of Hot Chocolate's I Believe In Miracles: "Bonk bonk-bonk-bonk bonk-bonk-bonk..."

He asks if it's good for her.

She lies. She tells him her fantasy lover is better.

He says there won't be a next time.

He cleans her up. Erotic - I feel this urge to change dirty diapers myself.

She says that she will prefer to live a life of celibacy, even if her imaginations run wild, because a real life lover is too dangerous. That's right, Big Bird, make even your orgasms your martyr agenda. But she magnanimously allows Kell to find his own lovers. Kell resents that. He doesn't like the idea of her letting him go catting around. I want to smack them both in their heads. Grow up, idiots, and get lost.

They agree to live a life apart despite being married to each other, and then they sleep, each congratulating him or herself on being the greatest martyr in the world. I head off to play computer games.

Chapter Eight. Seanie is angry that his brother married "the vicious slut who ruined my life". Yeah, Seanie, because it's all about you. Kell explains that he did it so that Seanie won't have to be in prison and gets the shaft each time he bends down to pick up the soap. Seanie throws things around, but because he was a Sodomite's Victim, Kell is guilt-ridden enough to let him behave like a brat.

"Go to hell," he sneers.

Amen.

Kell orders Seanie to go back to Ireland, because Seanie's behavior towards Black Bird is inexcusable. Oh? Since when did that epiphany comes about? I probably missed it in Kell's convoluted thought processes.

Seanie storms away, and now cue the sad violins as Kell reflects on what a failure he has been. Violins go eee-eee-eee... Seanie was buggered as kid, and let the chorus sing: ooh-ooh-ooh. Eee-eee... Seanie has self-destructive tendencies, ah-ah-ah. Kell goes to university - ooh-ooh-ooh - when he comes home - ee-ee-ee - he learns that Seanie has been - *high soprano aria here* - buggered by uncle!

The siblings flee to Ireland - frantic Mission Impossible Theme here please, dum, dum, dum, dum-dum-dum - where Kell becomes the king of gamblers. They have money, he spoiled Seanie rotten, and now he is all-guilty because (a) Seanie was buggered and (b) Seanie was spoiled rotten. In a way, Kell's as bad as Black Bird. Both of them are professional martyrs that will scream for people to throw more wood into their pyre because they deserve to die painfully for whatever sins they believe they are responsible for, real or imagined.

Then he decides that he can't blame Raven for Seanie's troubles, but at the same time, "there was no question that her irresistible allure had led Sean to more suffering". I'm starting to get the hang of this author's idea of deep drama. Take one sentence, and totally contradict the first half of the sentence with the later half.

Now he decides that he really has betrayed his brother by marrying the woman he no longer blames for his brother's sufferings, so he must now never ever sleep with her ever again. This is after he remembers her body and every hot tight curves and shimmies and all, naturally. Nicole Jordan, beautiful and regal, the new Queen of Nonsensical Writings and Irrational Contradictions. Long live the Queen.

Meanwhile, Black Bird is having a hard time too. She is gathering the courage to talk to her now-no-longer-sweetheart Duke. Tough luck. The Duke tells her that now, he will not only not forgive Kell, he'll ruin that pig. Go, Duke! Although I suspect that if Black Bird has done a better job instead of babbling like a dingbat (I refuse to recap her conversation with the Duke), she may pull that off. Since she can't, well, toughie.

Oh great, now she has another excuse to wallow in guilt.

Raven then goes to meet her best friend, Brynn, last seen in Desire, and this whole scene is nothing more than a silly advertisement for Desire as well as a pointless recap of Black Bird's story until this point. Waste of time, let's move on.

Chapter Nine. All the characters from Nicole Jordan's Ivy books rally to halp Kell and Black Bird weather the scandal. Pointless to recap, because I will die of boredom before my computer if I recap every tedious detail of how everyone loves Black Bird and how everyone promises to help her and how she demurs.

Kell visits her that night. Yes, this is after he has said he will never see her again. He tells her sad stories that the author has already told me twice. His uncle, hiss. His mother, ooh. And on and on. Raven wonders if he's trying to gain her sympathy. Hey, me too. She asks him to dance with her in a ball. Since these two characters are walking cardboard figures with no coherent personality, I yawn and look at clock instead. Is it me or this story becoming dull beyond belief?

Chapter ten. The ball. He looks handsome, she looks beautiful, they dance, everyone from the author's previous books tells them how amazing they are while everyone else makes rude comments about Kell's Irishness, and Nicole Jordan tells us to love all Irishmen, even the Irish idiots. Black Bird, always an opportunist martyr, takes the opportunity to make it all about her: if being Irish is this bad, oh, what about being a bastard?

Sean crashes the wedding and says a few rude comments. I actually starting to like this guy, believe it or not. He insinuates that Kell's got it bad for wife, which Kell hotly denies. To prove it, he leaves the wife and strides off. Black Bird stares after him, wanting so badly to hug, comfort, and pity sex her husband, before calling herself a fool. Yes, fools, all of you.

Chapter 11. They are popular again, and invitations pour in. Apparently all it takes to win the Ton is one night of dancing while all your influential friends do your dirty work. Which makes me wonder - where were these friends when Black Bird was trying not to marry? If they were so powerful, why can't they just shield a single Black Bird from scandal?

Then again, why the heck do I even bother to ask?

Seanie shows up, again for more nastiness. You go, boy!

Sean insinuates that Kell is less than a gentleman. Black Bird is furious - and shocked. Who would've thought a man who takes advantage of a drugged up girl will be less than a gentleman! And listen to this man who drugs her and then kidnaps her - why should he lie?

Her groom comes in, Sean slinks off, and now Raven refuses to feel sorry for herself. Which means she making a declaration that now she has married Kell, she must live with her decision, truly a martyr. I mean, I've never seen a woman who uses every thing that happens around her as an excuse to wallow in self pity or commits some painful actions to soothe her own bloated sense of self-importance. What I wouldn't give for her illegitimate birth to come out in the open only to have her realize that nobody gives a damn about her. Now that will take this Missy Me down a few pegs.

While she suffers in silence, her groom tells off Kell about Seanie. Why can't this groom find a woman or man of his own? He is the most likable guy in the whole novel, and he has a brain too. Kell promises that Sean will never "hurt" Black Bird again.

He finds his brother in a brothel catering to "perversions" - as opposed to brothels catering to genteel tastes, perhaps? Only in romance novels, I tell you - where our hero then makes it All About Him: he has set Seanie a bad example by indulging in perversions, oh sob, and now he is so happy he has a pure wife who will never do perversions with him (only in romance novels, part two).

He tells Seanie to leave. I thought he did that already?

Seanie threatens to tell the magistrate that he saw Kell kill the Buggering Uncle. He also blames Kell for letting the Buggering Uncle does his thing on him. Instead of punching that spoiled brat in the face, Kell agrees. It's all his fault! But if he could, he would've taken Seanie's place.

Sean then weakens, and says that he is too weak anyway to fight the uncle. There's a "devil" in his head, making him do things, he tells Kell. He just wants his big brother back, and now Black Bird has turned Kell against him.

Oh, Kell, I whisper, touched. Can't you see? Lil' Seanie's in love with you. He just wants your big manly arms to embrace him and promise him that everything will be alright. I reach for my hankie and wipe away a tear.

Seanie agrees to go back to Ireland. "Will you come with me?" he asks.

Awww. Such breath taking thwarted love.

Kell says no. He has obligations, and I think I'm not alone when I snort, "What obligations?"

And Black Bird, Seanie finishes bitterly. But if that is what makes Kell happy, he will go back to Ireland and manage a breeding program in the farm. That's what the author uses - "breeding program". I'm afraid to ask.

Still, what a lovely scene of brotherly love. Seanie, you fool, you should have drugged that fizzer up according to your family tradition and then take advantage of him.

Kell goes home, looks at his wife, talks about wanting to borrow the wife's erotic book, and that's it. Nothing happens. Just like the most of this book. Friggin' nothing happens.

Chapter 12. Nothing happens much. The Duke (remember him?) spreads rumors about Kell's club, but everything else is basically Black Bird horseriding, Black Bird's friends loving her and helping her keep the scandal at bay, et cetera. It's as fun as sitting naked in the desert.

Black Bird visits Kell's club and gets jealous over Kell's Tart With The Heart of Gold assistant. The Tart repeats another tedious account of Kell's life on the streets and all. We get it - Kell had a tough life, but unless the author gives that man something resembling a personality, no amount of hard life story will make me care even a little.

Oh, and she cheats in a game so that Kell will try to fight those rumors. Because heroines must save the world, you know.

Raven murmurs at night as she dreams of Kell her pirate lover, but she just won't go to him or rub herself raw. Fun for the family. If this is sexual tension, I'm moving to a monastery.

Chapter 13. Black Bird wakes up and feels guilty over cheating in last night's game. But it's necessary, she tells herself, and gets up, happy that she's acting like a martyr again, just like she always like her life that way. But she is worried that her husband may not honor their wager, so she has to press him once more for reassurance.

They argue over the newspaper at the breakfast table. I may be amused if these two actually have some characterization outside the cardboard realm.

Then it's four days later. Oh, I forgot to say this earlier: Kell saves orphans as hobbies. There's this orphan, Nate, that Kell had saved earlier. Today, it's See How Nice Kell Are To Kiddies time.

That's characterization, Nicole Jordan style. Other authors writing about arranged marriages take time to develop the main characters, exposing their pains and weaknesses so that in the end, we will know and understand why they love each other. Not so with Nicole Jordan. Her characters never develop or grow. All they have are plenty of sob stories, upon which they can wallow in self pity and guilt non-stop. And since we don't develop the characters or make them face their own issues, we run out of plot.

Ergo, Ms Jordan's inserting a totally unnecessary Kell Loves Kiddies scene that does nothing to the story, except to show the world the author's talent in laundry list characterization. Loves kiddies, check. Evil uncle. Check. Sad mommies. Check. Who needs character development when you are Nicole Jordan?

And I don't even get gratuitous sex scenes to make up for my irritation. Nicole Jordan wants to becomes serious now, people. No more skanky sex scenes like her Avon books, no sir. Only, this is like driving a plane before one has even mastered the tricycle. This kind of stories need character development, no buts and no ifs about it. Ecstasy? Eat my shorts, man.

So we have the Canonization of St Kell excursion. Nate is sent to a good school. Kell gives him lots of pocket money, and Black Bird's tears fall. What a wonderful, wonderful man! Ugh, ugh, ugh!

Then she turns it into an All About Me session. Again. Guilt sweeps her as she recalls how the Duke's rumors are sweeping the town about Kell. Mind you, all this is not shown to the reader. So no, I'm not too sure what these rumors/plots/evil are, but nonetheless, Black Bird predictably beats herself up that she can't help this wonderful wonderful man feel better. Seeing how she doesn't do anything but to mope and whine most of the time, I'm not surprised that her (non-)actions bear no fruit.

Tears sweep down her face too as she reflects on poor Nate's upbringing. She is so ashamed to be rich! Okay, Ms Jordan, that's enough of the hysterical lunacy. Go to bed now, and sleep it off before the Care Bears come into this story and starts shooting happy heart beams from their belly buttons on everybody in the story.

Kell turns it into an All About Me Session too.

Black Bird asks him why he cares.

He answers that he shares Nate's pain, how they are so alike, et cetera.

The Care Bears come, and everyone gets a giant squirt of happy heart beams. I want to sue.

Because of this scene, Black Bird finally realizes what a wonderful man hubby is.

"Amateurish melodrama," I mutter, and turn the page in disgust.

Kell's club suffers. People stop coming. Black Bird asks her friends (characters from previous books) to rally the troops. No luck. Of course, I wonder - if these people will willing ostracize Kell for being Irish, does Black Bird expect them to rally around Kell just because Black Bird asks them to? Such is the brainpower of Black Bird, and such is the power of the plotting behind this book.

Finally, Black Bird knows she has no choice but to confront the Duke.

Is anyone surprised at this decision?

Taking along the couple from Desire who are now reduced to being Mary Sue bodyguards, Black Bird confronts the Duke in a theater in Drury Lane. He cuts her and shoos her away. Drats. Foiled.

So what does intrepid dingbat here do? Send her bodyguards away and trail after the Duke's carriage. Alone. To an isolated place where she will beg the man who has vowed to destroy her for mercy. Alone.

"Kill her!" I scream. "Cut off her head and use it as a soccer ball!"

To my horror, she tells the Duke everything - the real story - and after confessing that she doesn't love Kell, the Duke calls off his plot! I stare at the book in horror. There goes the villain. What is Nicole Jordan going to pad the rest of the 100 or more pages left with? More sulking? More self-pity? Lord help me, I'm starting to feel sorry for myself as it is already.

That obstacle done with, Black Bird happily runs back to her husband. She introduces him to the Duke, who then apologizes! Black Bird is so happy, and tears threaten to fall from her eyes again.

I roll up my eyes.

But Kell is not happy. In fact, he is furious. How dare his wife! He gets insanely jealous the only way badly-written heroes can be, and demands to know what Black Bird offered the Duke in return for the man's apology. Hmm, Kell is probably remembering how easy his wife was under the influence. Serves you right, asshole, what comes around goes around. He begins imagining his wife boinking with the Duke, and at this point, I conclude that the author has completely lost the plot. I mean, jeez, do we need this stupid conflict? Can I stop here and fling this book out the window in disgust?

The next few days. Black Bird sees Kell flirt with his Tart Assistant, and she too burns with jealousy. Burn, burn, burn! Dare, a character from a previous book now playing Mary Sue, asks Black Bird if she's mad that hubby's porking someone else. Duh. But Black Bird, the good martyr she is, reminds Dare that her marriage is one of convenience and surely then he has the right to keep a harem if he wants to. I have no more bile for Black Bird's indescribable stupidity, so let's just move on, okay?

She decides to seduce him. Because we all know, sex is the panacea for all difficult issues in a relationship. That is, until we reach the last ten pages, upon which the baby takes over the role as the all-powerful panacea.

Chapter Fourteen. Tacky sex scene where our heroine plays the subservient whore to our hero. That's right, love, play up to his insufferable sense of self-entitlement to win him back. That's the way to do it!

I'm not going to touch that chapter.

Chapter Fifteen. Black Bird wakes up and encounters the Tart. Lesbian sex follows.

Kidding.

Tart explains that she is never Kell's mistress. Then, she proceeds to canonize Kell, telling Black Bird how she offers herself to Kell after he has rescued her from some hard life, but he refuses! Black Bird is so touched. Her husband, who raped her when she was drugged, is such a wonderful, wonderful man. I feel like sobbing too. Eek, eek, eek, I have never felt so insulted before in my life. All you people who voted for me to recap this book, you better be grateful that I am suffering so much pain for you all.

Shameless Mary Sues, tsk tsk. This is so amateurish. Instead of having her main characters confront their weaknesses, the author has secondary cheerleaders bringing out tales of her characters' so-called strength instead. How many ways can I say amateur?

So Black Bird loves her husband again, and husband gets away with all his crap. Because he loves kids and have saved pathetically grateful whores in the past. This is bad self-justification masquerading as character development. Amateur.

Now the Tart is asking Black Bird to understand - Kell is lonely too. Kell needs love too. Rubbish, I say. You act like a jerk, you bloody well be a man and admit you're a jerk. If you have to rely on third-hand tales of kindness and pity for people to respect you, you may as go take a short walk off the cliff. Respect must be earned, and so must forgiveness.

But I guess such scenes is probably out of Ms Jordan's ability, since she has to rely on such painfully obvious "Let's not hate the man, he is just misunderstood!" (imagine this line being sung by Elaine Page, Cats-style) scenes to insult me further. Tomorrow, I'm going to walk up to a bank and do a hold-up, and then has my sister remind the judge that I am lonely too and I need love so I should not be jailed, only forgiven and loved by everybody with a heart.

"I love this book," Michael Jackson chimes in. "I have a tough life too. Have you seen my childhood?"

They confront each other, where Kell is playing fencing. She accuses him of making her believe that Emma the Tart is his mistress. He says that it is her fault she leaps into such conclusions. I mean, if your husband leans over to the woman and whispers in her ears and does all that secret rendezvous looks thing, how dare you suspect that he and she are getting it on! Duh. Serves you right, Black Bird, for thinking such meanie things about a gentlemen who raped you when you were drugged. How could you be so close-minded? Shame on you!

Talk, talk, talk, skip, skip, skip, then they conclude by agreeing that okay, maybe sex is okay, but no more intimate things. Sex isn't intimate? Okay, whatever. I'm not going to belabor this plot twist. From the competence the author displayed so far when it comes to scenes of emotional intimacy, she's probably wise to keep those to a minimum.

That night, sex.

He wants to win her away from her imaginary lover.

What happens to avoiding anything more intimate than mere shagging?

"I love this book. Have you seen my childhood?"

Shut up, Michael.

Chapter Sixteen. They have sex every night.

Kell takes her to a brothel. She is thrilled, just like all good wives should be when their husbands bring them to a brothel they are obviously very familiar with. A pirate fantasy sex scene follows. Lots of puckered protrusions and aching swellings. I'm not recapping this, suffice to say sex is so powerful, emotional development is swept under the carpets. The more you shag, the better man you are.

"Have you seen my childhood?"

Michael...

"I love you."

Out!

Chapter Seventeen. Now it's Christmas. My, how time flies when no plot, nothing happens in this crappy story. Black Bird returns to her grandfather's place for Christmas. Painful chit-chat about the weather, leprechauns, and how Kell is managing his wife, aw thanks, Grandpa-in-law.

Kell asks Grandpa for Black Bird's history.

Grandpa recaps the history. I'm not listening, la-la-la.

After hearing her sad story, Kell suddenly realizes that he wants her to be his wife in every way!

Yo, Simon Baker, wanna hear my sad story? My puppy was ran over by a truck and its corpse was eaten by a dingo. I'm still traumatized. Wanna shag, baby?

But he laments, how can he win his wife from her fantasy lover?

The author is really pulling at straws now, isn't she?

Black Bird wants to keep her distance away from Kell. But she can't.

Look, do we need to know about all this childish second-guessing and whining? Yes? Tough luck then, because I'm not sticking around any longer.

Chapter Eighteen. They are still having sex while not wanting to have sex. See ya, baby. Oh, and Kell becomes a lord. Screw you, Kell.

Chapter Nineteen. Seanie comes back. Seanie! I actually missed you and your bad moods, baby. Come over me and brain me to death with that poker, darling, so that I can finally be free.

He creates a lot of noise, and is thrown out from the place. Kell tells Black Bird about the Buggering Uncle, and finally decides to send Sean to Bedlam. I have this sudden yearning to see Bedlam myself.

Sean retaliates by killing Black Bird's groom.

"Nooooo!" Black Bird screams.

High five, Seanie. I like you a lot, really, you sexy psychopath stud you.

Kell and Raven take this opportunity to rehash their sob stories. Shut up, shut up, shut up! But he reveals that it is Seanie who killed the Buggering Uncle.

A man who can take of himself and rid the world of idiots?

Seanie, you sexy bastard you! Marry me.

Black Bird is prostrate with guilt and grief. Sean arrives and stands at the door of her, dressing room, pistol in hand.

Shoot her, baby! Shoot that bitch and splatter her brains all over the place. Shoot her, shoot her, shoot her shoot her shoot her shoot her!

Ahem. Deep breath, ying yang, water flows under mountain, ohm. Ahem.

Okay, I'm calm again. Where was I?

Next chapter. She is kidnapped, he kills Seanie. Bastards, all of you, bastards!

Chapter 21. Kell dumps her. Don't ask. Lots of weeping scenes though, so that's okay. The Duke buys the club from Kell and gives it to the Tart. Whatever.

Chapter 22. Because she loves him, she couldn't bear the guilt of betraying their vows of marriages of convenience, so she is silently fleeing the country, from Kell. Even at this late stage, the Black Bird still manages to shove a baseball bat up my bunghole right into my brain, inflicting a mortal wound on poor old me.

She is also sure that he blames her for his brother's death, et cetera, oh, so let her die alone, with only memories of italicized love scenes to comfort her to the bitter end.

Then she decides to be strong and turn back, just as Kell finds her. Apparently Dare finds him in Ireland and warns him that Black Bird is fleeing the country. Why the heck can't he in the first place just leave word for wife to wait and be patient?

Tedious "It's not your fault!" inanities from Black Bird and Kell nodding, "Yes, I'm such a marvelous martyr, wasn't I?"

One more chapter to go. Let's hurry and skip the rest of the nonsense.

Epilogue. Remember the Uh-so-long Andrews thing in Chapter 1? Kell reenacts that scene. He opens an orphanage.

I slam the book shut. The end. The light at the end of the tunnel. The hosannas of all hosannas. My pain has ended. My agony is over. Hallelujah!

Rating: 25


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