Night Shadow
by Laura Renken, historical (2001)
Jove (A Seduction Romance), $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13155-5


Gosh, have you seen the cover? Talk about one scary nipple. I mean, here's one cute hunk, and look, right there, zoinging right in my view like the pimple from hell, that Scary Nipple. It is red, as if it is filled with pus to the point of bursting open. Eeek. No wonder the hunk on the cover has a glazy-eyed look to him. He must be in pain, the poor thing. Let me put on my gloves and pinch that thing. The things I do for mankind, I tell you.

The story of Night Shadow? Well, man oh man, remember those old days when pirate romances are... well, pirate romances? Laura Renken must be trying to rejuvenate that subgenre. Unfortunately, her idea of starting a renaissance is not firing new ideas into a genre, but to recycle the old plots to the point of android-like faithfulness.

But I do love how the author has the heroine Maria Liandra Espinosa expressing her admiration for her brother Gabriel:

Liandra's breath caught. Black hair swept carelessly across his brow. Over the striking white and cobalt blue velvet waistcoat of his high rank, a golden braid attached a short cloak carelessly strewn over one shoulder... The concern in his eyes trapped her panic. From out of nowhere, tears swelled...

Liandra has never seen her brother with so much as a hair out of its proper place... (Mrs G: from here, she goes on to ogle about his beard, his height - you get the idea).

I mean, ow, my eardrums. The Freudian bells resound so loudly indeed.

The story is like this. It starts with a storm. Liandra makes the captain free a prisoner, Marcus Ryan Drake (from the name - oooh, Drake! - you know he must be the hero), so that he can sail them all to safety. Turns out she's the daughter of the people who are his enemy, so now he will compromise her as a means of vengeance. Zzzz.

Liandra, like all badly drawn heroines, have no genuine characterization. She is like a beer keg, with emotions that can be switched on and off at the author's discretion. One moment she is screaming at the hero (and not in a happy way), and then the hero asks about her past, and Liandra lights up like a silly puppy as she immediately launches into a tale about her childhood and all, complete with the obligatory sniffles for some dead family member. The author wants her to be angry, no problem. "I hate you!!!" Liandra will shriek. Then we need them to have some Angry Sex. "Aaaaaahhhhh... ooohh... hate you... oooh!" Liandra will go. Then we need Angry Recriminations After Angry Sex. "I hate you!!!!" Liandra will obligingly scream all over again. Does she even have a personality here? She's like an android programmed to emote when a button is pressed.

As for Marcus, eh. It's all about him, you know. Liandra makes herself a martyr just to keep him safe, and he's pissed because it's all about him. Him, him, him, him, him. On the thick-headed, not-so-intelligent side, he comes off like a Fabio wannabe masquerading as Cary Grant in a swashbuckler story gone haywire.

Uninspired by-the-book rehashing of plots, badly drawn characters coming close to exaggerated caricatures, and the scary nipple thing. Triple combo for an ultra snooze of a read. Oh well, at least the ridiiculously corny and cheesy "Dear Reader, I am Marcus Drake, your cheese for today" rubbish at the back cover makes amusing reading. That piece of cheese, at least, doesn't seem to take itself so seriously.

Rating: 53


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