Mulligan Stew
by Deb Stover, contemporary (2002)
Jove (Irish Eyes), $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13309-4


I think the romance subgenre must have started a new subgenre while I was too busy throwing up my disgust - The Victim and The Jerk Romanza. If you think that being Irish is an excuse enough to act like a berserk dumb mule, boy, dip your ladle into Mulligan Stew and enjoy. I hope hero Riley Mulligan will choke on his potato and die in slow-motion asphyxiation, preferably after his eyeballs pop out of the sockets of his skull.

Our victim is Bridget Mulligan. She does have some spine, but the spine gets zapped by aliens and evaporates into photon particles whenever she's in the proximity of a Mulligan man. Her husband Culley left one day after a quarrel and never came back. After a few years (boy, that store hubby went to must be pretty far away), she learns that he's dead and they never contacted her because hubby kept their marriage a secret and... er... something, I guess. I'll just leave making sense of plot contrivances to the experts.

Anyway, today she learns that her husband is co-owner of a castle. She and her boy pack their bags to meet Ma Mulligan, Sister Mulligan, and the hero, Riley Mulligan. Ma and Sis accept Bridget soon enough, but Riley is sure that she is a slut out to cheat the family. Sure, she's a hot one, and Riley can accept that his brother may have knocked up this hot wench, but marry? Never! After mocking Bridget's "hillybilly accent" and blaming her for being the Delilah to his brother's Samson, he proceeds to take it out on a small boy. That is the last straw. I want this dumb jerk dead.

Fair enough if Riley's closeted incest gay love for his brother makes sense. Riley keeps saying that Culley will never marry that inferior American when Culley had a woman here in pure ol' Ireland... and out comes that Katie woman. Katie's not a caricature in a sense, but she's not the Irish Holy Madonna Riley keeps making her out to be. Riley, I must therefore conclude, is a moron with no taste in women thanks to Ms Stover's inability to string together tired plot devices in a way that makes sense.

Along the way, Riley does a lot of stupid stuff and says a lot of smellier stuff that trot a fine line between ignorance and blind jingoism. His initial and irrational mistrust at Bridget has him saying some really hateful nonsense, and him not sparing Bridget's boy is the final straw. What makes him her true love? Remember Ireland? Put Ireland, a castle, and a complete lack of originality in the author's couldron and we have lots of "erotic dreams" and "we need to break the curse" nonsense that will coerce our gruesome twosome together where logic and (non-)chemistry fail.

Riley makes an abrupt, unconvincing turnface at around page 250 (with only 58 or so pages left to go), and a few pages after that Bridget realizes that she loves him. Without any solid and crystal clear action on his part that he will start treating her with even a shred of respect. No wonder she's a victim. She's a first class professional victim.

No chemistry, no convincing romance, just a victim falling for an abusive and misogynist bastard that seems a worse catch than that first husband of hers - whatever Ms Stover put in this Mulligan Stew, she has forgotten convincing characterization, credible romance, and a hero who doesn't act as if he is the bastard love child of a Diana Palmer and Connie Mason novel.

Rating: 39


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