by Kathryn Smith, historical (2003)
Avon, $4.99, ISBN 0-06-000619-6
Sequel to Banana And The Mule, oops, Anna And The Duke. The heroine here, Emily Fitzgerald, is the half-sister of the hero in Banana.
Like Banana, Emily wants to marry for love. She rejects a man who proposed because she finds him boring, proper, noble, and hence doesn't set her barely-in-puberty ovaries on fire. She's 18. That's 18 in a fake ID sense. When she learns that the man proposed just to win a bet, however, she is mortified. This is just another Shame in her life, the latest in a long line of Shame after her brother King Dick tried to off her bestest half-brother ever in Banana (remember, girls, your big brother is evil and must die, but the friend of his is always hot, yes? HOT!) and is now exiled in some barbaric land abroad.
With the maid she befriends in your typical "I am nice to her, she is my friend, so that makes me a very good person - hey, you maid, go scrub my thong panties now!" way, she flees to Scotland to visit her half-brother and his wife, the Most Asexual Married Couple In The Universe (after all, this is a True Romance where people only kiss and then babies miraculously appear in the sweet virgin's tummy - uterus being a bad word and all).
There she launches into a train wreck of many, many "amusing" misunderstandings with Jamie MacLaughlin, the Hot Friend Of The Half-Brother whom every heroine in what seems like every young adult novel must fall for. Jamie, predictably, hates the English while finding this English missie hothothot. Teenagers - they are so amusingly hypocritical. Since these two just argue and fight all day long, it's love. Everybody says so. So what if these two people get together in the end only because situations throw them together so that they can fight some more? In this novel, the more you fight, the more in love you are. Just like how bookish gals must imagine the football captain feels towards them: "He mocks me and laughs at me, so he must really love me instead of that big-breasted cheerleader who gives out! After all, I'm sweet and pure and virginal, am I not? Oh, and I miss my dear old useless Daddy, have I told you my sad story yet?"
Is it too much for someone to call Jamie on his juvenile bigotry against the English, especially when he is deliberately mocking Emily while sporting the Erection That Never Existed Because This Is A True Romance Novel? Or am I to assume that the targetted readers of this book can't spell "hypocrite" yet? Even close to the last few chapters, Jamie is still misjudging Emily's motives and feelings. Is this supposed to be love?
Jamie is a selfish twit. He uses his feelings for her as an excuse to make it all about him - how he is unworthy, how he is willing to make concessions she never asks of him, et cetera. Ms Smith is also guilty of doing what I call a Gilmorization on Jamie, ie in the TV show Gilmore Girls the writers always give the teen lead character a "noble" trait and leave that as a sole (underdeveloped) excuse as to why this dude is worthy of Saintess Rory Gilmore's affections. The trait is always reading and sprouting of lines from books. In this case, Jamie can sprout poetry, and Emily experiences an Orgasm That Isn't An Orgasm Because This Is A True Romance Novel on the spot.
As for Emily, she's purely nitwit material, undergoing a transformation from Privileged Ninny to Ms Eager-To-Prove-And-Please, annoying me no end with each of her incarnations.
A teenager may find it romantic that two pretty teenagers spend all their "courtship" snapping, baiting, and taunting at each other. (I've read some Sweet Valley High stuff and I have watched some horrible teen pap on TV, so I may not be that off the mark.) If I'm a schoolyard kid where courtship basically means the boys pulling the pigtails of the girls they like while shoving tadpoles down their schoolbags, I may just break into premature happy puberty reading the tediously juvenile antics of Emily and Jamie. But me being cranky old me, I just sigh in relief when I can finally put this book aside. Kids can be so tedious sometimes.
Now, if only these True Romance authors do a Freaks And Geeks or even Ferris Bueller style of romance rather than the Road To Avonlea, Detour To The Doldrums thing. How about a John Hughes type of cheesefest? There's more to "wholesome" teenage romance novels than spawning watered down versions of the "adult" Avon romances, surely.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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