On A Wild Night
by Stephanie Laurens, historical (2002)
Avon, $7.50, ISBN 0-380-81203-7


The one-trick pony Stephanie "I eat clichés for dinner" Laurens returns with a book that a dumb chimp can plot on autopilot.

It had been a road-to-Damascus revelation when they'd realize that their cousins [the Cynsters] - those arrogant, dictatorial males they had for so long fought to be free of - were in fact the embodiment of their ideals.

Nothing like an Australian author waxing poetry about consanguinity to make many people - especially New Zealanders, I'm sure - snigger knowingly.

The cousin-loving twin sisters Amanda and Amelia want to get married to a man just like their manly Cynster cousins - ie rakes. Why do they want to get married? They're only 23, two years short of that magic mark when romance heroines lose their brains and start stripping in the name of martyrhood. I don't know why they want to get married, because they just do. Character development is never one of Ms Laurens' strongest point anyway. Her strength is gathering every single trick one can buy from Magic Cliché K-Mart $2.99-a-bag sale and weave stories around these tricks.

But if Generic is Ms Laurens' middle name, she doesn't make it easy for me by making the heroine of this story, Amanda Cynster, stupid beyond belief. And it's not as if Ms Laurens is aware of this. She seems to genuinely believes that Amanda is "spunky and feitsy".

Amanda decides to get married. But all her cousins are married. So how can she find a Devil/Demon/Tinky-Winky clone to sate herself silly?

"So..." Amelia refocused on Amanda's face. "You'll search for eligible partis in the private clubs and gaming hells - gentlemen we haven't met yet because they don't, or don't often, appear in our circles."

"Precisely - in the clubs and hells, and at the private parties held in various ladies' salons."

And yes, this is the man Amanda is searching for in gaming hells:

A gentleman who loved them, who would set them and the family they would raise above all other considerations. A protector, a helpmate, with a reliable, strong arm who would always be there to keep them safe. A man who valued their skills, intelligence and opinions, who would accept them as an equal however much he wished to be lord and master of his world. A gentleman of sufficient substance to render their not-inconsiderable dowries by-the-by...

I deliberately bolded the last sentence, which is the proof that you should never imbibe alcohol while plotting a book. So, to find a reliable, steady, gallant, and economical husband, I shall go scouring the gaming hells in town? Very nice, Ms Laurens. Now please take a deep breath and do some tai-chi before you lose it completely.

Amanda does just that, and aggrieved by that arrogant, arrogant Martin, Earl of Dexter, who dares her to play cards with him, she does. She wins a mare, and then only does she panic, because, oh, how can she explain to her cousin Demon where the mare comes from? ("I was impregnated by Satan, and this is the baby!" probably won't cut it, I guess).

But she knows this: she wants to marry Martin! Ooh! I'm so excited! Aren't you?

"He's intelligent, astute - he actually thought enough to get Mellors to change my wine for water and to do it so no one knew. In short, on a physical and intellectual level, Dexter's perfect. Add to that he's as rich as Croesus - far too rich, anyway, to be after my dowry - and that, if half the rumors are true, he'd led the most amazingly exciting life, far, far wilder than anything I would even think of doing, and his perfection takes on an even brighter gloss."

Let's not even consider the lunacy of Amanda searching the gaming hells for a husband who will not plunder her dowry. Amanda's reasons to marry Dexter are... I don't know what to say, except, yo, lay off those recreational drugs, wench!

What else is there? Amanda running out into dark lanes - alone - for fun, adventure, weee! But when Dexter rogers her crazy and then proposes, is she happy? No! He never said he loved her, so she will not marry him! No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO!

I once had to sit for two hours on a toilet bowl due to severe diarrhea after eating some bad shellfish. But that's a wild night compared to Stephanie Laurens' $7.50-only ride on a vile night of stupendous craptasticity.

Rating: 05


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