The Crimson Lady
by Mary Reed McCall, historical (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-009770-1
This book claims to have a courtesan heroine. She slept with the villain, and yes, she's a victim. She will spend the whole book whining about how she can never live the life she always long for and feeling sorry for herself. She's a fake courtesan - her pimp (the villain) drugs the men who bought her services, because apparently he's too possessive to share. If he has dipped her in a taxidermist's vat and stuff her so that she can be the first medieval blow-up doll, I would have had a much better time reading The Crimson Lady, yet another tedious Use Me As A Doormat Until You Realize What An Innocent Victim I Am And Love Me At Last yarn.
Fiona Byrne also known as Giselle de Couer is the victim. The hero is Braedan de Cantor, a man on the run who wants to find his missing sister and avenge himself on the bad guy. Fiona has escaped her pimp Draven, joined some outlaws, and is now opening a flower shop. Braedan, however, has no problems tracking her down, which makes me wonder just how smart this woman is in the first place. As it soon becomes evident, not at all. He coerces her into using her money to pay for his rescue quest all the while treating her like dung. Fiona, instead of kicking this useless dolt out the door, of course has to make up for her sins, et cetera, so what can she do? Poor Fiona.
This book is filled with annoying melodramatic but stupid scenes. The villain is so ridiculously over-the-top, fine, but our main characters make it so easy for the villain, because Fiona and Braedan have really twisted and sadistic sense of righteousness that see them preferring to make martyrs out of themselves. The fact that Braedan doesn't really stop judging Fiona wrongly and harshly without reservation even towards the end of the book doesn't convince me one bit of the longevity of this love affair between Miss Hair Suit and Mr Bed Of Nails.
As with most predictable and mediocre romances that use Characters Who Have Sinned (Not Really) and turn the whole story into a pro-martyrhood tears-and-fears morality tale, The Crimson Lady has everything but the kitchen sink: Madonna/Whore polarisation, fake courtesan heroine, severe victim complex, characters that are easily manipulated into hating each other, and more, all in the name of, er, "moral" and "historical accuracy". Or something. Me, I'll just kick this book aside and pull down some nice Gayle Feyrer/Taylor Chase books from the bookshelf, books where the heroines make no apologies for having to do some not-nice things to survive.
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