Secret Vows
by Mary Reed McCall, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81785-3


In the prologue, I get a first person account of heroine Catherine of Somerset's tale of woe. (For your info, the rest of the story is in third person point of view.) Oh, the poor woman has to endure a horrible father, her butt-ugly luscious lips and dark, non-blonde hair and willowy flaxen supermodel height and oh, her nasty marriage, poor, poor woman! And now her children are being held hostage by her singularly evil brother-in-law Eduard who not only beats her, he also wants her to pose as the new wife of Grayson de Camville as an accomplice for his murder!

I am shocked. No woman should deserve this nasty fate. "Poor Cathy," I scream in horror, "you are a cliché, you poor, poor thing!"

Naturally, Grayson is stunned by his new butt-ugly bride who is as tall as a supermodel (or maybe the term is statuesque?) And those hideous succulent lips! Those horrible buxom boobies! Those disgustingly odious abundant curves. What a nightmare, huh?

But Grayson is a superstar knight in shining demigod armor. He wooes her, he flatters her, and he carefully sets her up on the highest pedestal. She is a woman, she is a goddess, she is enchante, magnifique! But Cathy, she pleads, nay, nay, I have no self-confidence! I have ugly! I am helpless!

"There, there, my medieval ma'belle," Grayson would say, "let me teach you to regain your self-esteem. Here, touch my sword, hold the hilt tightly, ma'belle, and trust me, a healthy lesson of swordplay will improve your self-esteem!"

"But what about Eduard! Oh, Grayson, I can't tell you the truth! Oh, Grayson, save me! Protect me!"

"Ma'belle, let me! I adore you! I worship you! Let me get on my knees and serenade ye with my rendition of the sweetest of love songs!"

Okay, there's no singing. But Grayson adores Cathy, and puts her through a self-esteem crash course you will have to fork out a fortune for nowadays. There's no big misunderstandings, no cruel knights (except for the villain), no bad writing, nothing. Secret Vows is a notable debut indeed, because the writing is clean, and the author's voice shines through.

Only, only, eh. This is strictly a rescue fantasy. Some readers believe romance and rescue fantasies are synonymous of course, but me, while it's nice that Grayson is such a sensitive and noble man (he did all but to roll down a hill shouting "As you wiiiiissshhh..."), I wish Catherine isn't always so in need of reassurance, rescuing, and pampering. It's not that fun, you know, to read about helpless damsels-in-distress who resemble a particular species of poison ivy sometimes.

Rating: 77


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