by May McGoldrick, historical (2002)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20654-1
Susan Wiggs says about this book, "The classic rebel-in-disguise story has never been more fun, exciting, or romantic... fabulous!" In other words, same old turkey, only without the nosebleed factor.
Our heroine Jane Purefoy is an angry woman. She is English, but when her Irish lover is hanged at the gallows, she is so fired up with self-righteous fury that she dons a mask - a very easily detachable mask, as we will soon see - and boy's costume and behold - Egan, the Irish Zorro! Egan even have a bunch of loyal Irish followers who will appear conveniently when our heroine needs to get into trouble and be rescued, only to disappear when our heroine needs to show the hero that she has breasts and she wears dresses too.
Of all the evil English men squatting and pooping in Ireland, no one thinks of jumping at our heroine and tackling her down. She will ambush evil moneyed English capitalists, and then sends her men away so that she can deliver an annoyingly self-righteous "Repent, sinner!" lecture at our bad Englishmen, and they all just stand there and listen to her.
Until our English (and Irish sympathizing, of course) hero Nicholas Spencer arrives to court her younger sister. While en route, he walks up to the heroine lecturing a recently delooted man of the frock, and pounces on her. He pulls off her mask, and she, realizing that at last, someone with remotely a brain has appeared in this story, flees. He has seen her face, but since a brush with dead kids on English streets has given our hero enlightenment, he lies to the authorities and keeps the gender of our heroine a secret. Because an Irish lawbreaker is always in the right. Or something.
Imagine their surprise when they meet each other in the Purefoy house. Nicholas immediately is besotted with her, not seeming to care whether she's just plain crazy or a psycho vigilante. He doesn't even seem to realize that he's English and hence her enemy. No, she's here, she's hot, and he's pursuing her. On her part, she's all putty. Once or twice she remembers she's Egan, and she runs off to do her thing (without any pre-planning with her people, apparently) and Nicholas will follow. I scratch my head and wonder at the number of planets I can fit through the gaping logic black holes in this story.
Okay, forget the plot, which seems like a Zorro play adapted for pre-school kiddies. Nicholas is a decent hero with a rather upbeat outlook in life despite his life's experiences, and if the author team of May McGoldrick can provide a more upbeat bounce to their rather flat prose, he'll be a more charming and appealing hero. Jane is the typical put-me-in-breeches-see-me-go-stoopid heroine, but she does display decent common sense at times. She also has a convincing reason for her actions. So no nosebleed here, only a mild snort or some head scratching at the more implausible plot moments.
I think part of the problem here is that the authors don't want to put in any real stumbling block in the paths of the hero and the heroine's true love thing. If that's what they want to do - to put the relationship foremost - they are doing it at the expense of the plot. The obvious gaps in logic and coherence make The Rebel seem like an undercooked turkey. It looks nice on the outside, but one stab with my fork and eeeuw, all the metaphorical blood and other liquids start spewing out like something out of a B-grade horror movie.
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