by Rebecca Hagan Lee, historical (1999)
Jove, $6.50, ISBN 0-515-12712-4
This book has a copyright date of 1999 but the author, who has three titles in the backlist page, says in a foreword that this is her first novel. Go figure.
Cristina Fairfax has the misfortune to be trapped in a really over-the-top scenario: her mother, who is a promiscuous pig, has auctioned her off as a mistress to the Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary. Naturally, as a shrieky, innocent, and virtuous heroine, Cristina protests and is locked up in the Prince's room as a result.
Lord Blake Ashford is also trapped in an over-the-top version of Dynasty. His dead wife invited him to play threesome with his first cousin on their wedding night when he discovered them both testing out his honeymoon king-size bed in most imaginative ways possible. I'm not joking. Now, he feels compelled to rescue Cristina and gives her shelter in his house. Of course she protests, screams, accuses him of being no better than her mother, while trying to steal from him. I always love an intelligent heroine. But lo, they kiss, get the shivers, and jump into bed. Then Crist decides she loves him after all, but egads, in a nice Big Misunderstanding, Cristina runs off with the Crown Prince. As a companion but not mistress of course. Remember, our heroine is Pure.
Hero runs after her, they make love, then decides to get shackled, but guess what?
Well, I won't spoil the story, but it is here onwards, after The Great Nasty Villian appears, that the story begins to improve from its melodramatic slump. Cristina actually grows a brain while Blake starts showing some vulnerabilities that make him more human. But then again, the Big Villian is so one-dimensionally nasty that I can't really say it's a major improvement.
Don't tell anyone, however, but I actually sort of enjoyed reading this story. there's an eerie fascination to reading about Cristina's next misunderstanding and the next laughably nasty plot the Evil Villian comes up with. A guilty pleasure sort of thing, if you know what I mean. This book may not shake my world or anything, but reading it is a pretty pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
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