Brighter Than Gold
by Linda Madl, historical (2000)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6755-0


A quarter way through Linda Madl's Brighter Than Gold, I put my head down at the table and took a long, deep breath. Spare me from those heroines whose existance seem only to Serve, Protect, Fight, and Sacrifice for everybody and anybody, only they do it most incompetently. What is this?

Carson Fairfax, stereotypical rake, opens a gaming house in Denver. His parents were English nobles, however, so when Mom says she'll come for a visit, Carson realizes he needs a proper wife ASAP. Don't want Mommy to know of his naughtiness in Denver, after all. By the way, Carson hates his father.

Katherine Tucker is the one running for sainthood. A rich heiress yet always the reformer, she wants to marry for love. So she turns a nice lawyer down (marry for love, remember) but marries Carson anyway when he promises to shut down his game house. Don't I just adore a martyr? Ooh, and of course, to complete our heroine's catalogue of sainthood, she has a blind sister whom she will do anything - anything! - to protect.

So she wants to save the world - fine, somebody has to. But she lacks even the slightest ability to whiff out obviously nefarious schemes carried out behind her back. In effect, she has the zeal and the set of lungs to bark on and on about healing the world, but she is inept and incompetent.

Katherine's boring. Carson's boring too. The whole relationship dynamics is boring - Katherine realizes Carson has a Lousy Childhood, so it's like, you know, he can't be blamed for the debauched way he lived! She then happily jumps him, her conscience soothed.

And since this is a Christmas cash-in story, there are lots of sappy We are family, awwww moments that, coupled with ridiculously shallow pop-psychology to excuse the hero's sins (Mommy's fault! Daddy's fault! Heroine's fault!), make me see Hallmark in my eyes.

Brighter Than Gold is pretty readable, I must admit. It's just that it has all these clichés and stereotypes and all hanging from its pages like giant, gaudy, and ugly curtains - ugh.

Rating: 56


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