by Hope Tarr, historical (2002)
Jove (Highland Fling), $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13339-6
If sexual experience is a yardstick for maturity, by right Claudia Valemont should be a brainy, world-wise woman, while virgin Mr Jack should be the equivalent of the bottom bitch in the relationship. Yes, My Lord Jack is one of those romances that pretends to be unusual but instead the plot trundles foward along the inane same-old concept that the heroine must always do a lot of stupid things - and do them very loudly too - so that our hero can rescue her again and again.
In short, French refugee Claudia is the perfect example why the French executed their aristocracy in the Rebellion. Hope Tarr obviously doesn't like the French much. Is it because Napoleon is fat and short?
Claudia was once a pampered mistress of a French noble dude, until everything comes crashing down along with the blade of the guillotine. She flees to Scotland, hoping to find her father (she is his bastard) and sanctuary. Because you see, mistresses that deserve love are those with lousy past and circumstances. Those happy mistresses that give out to rake heroes are the sluts that deserve to die. So let's applaud Claudia, the Noble Mistress! Because illegitimacy is a legitimate excuse for everything in romance novels.
But Clodbrained here finds herself stranded when the mail coach she is taking breaks down. How insulting! She tries to boss Mr Jack around into giving him a ride, but he refuses. Ooh! So our wily and intrepid Clodbrained tries to steal a horse instead. Bravo, bravo! I applaud and clap my hands when she predictably gets caught. How she escaped the bloodthristy French middle-classes is beyond my mortal comprehension.
I mean, will it kill her to wait for them to repair the coach?
Anyway, Jack turns out to be the local executioner - cool - and performing the first of many mercy pities, successfully pleads for a leanier sentence for Clodbrained.
Is Clodbrained happy? Especially now that her life is spared and all she has to do is do some phsyical labor for six months for Jack. I'm not happy that braindead harpy is still alive, but heck, if she has to get on her knees and do a White House Intern thing, I'm all for it. But no Monica Lewinsky here, because Clodbrained is Angry, she wants to Escape Now. Even if she knows that escaping means death for her. She will lie to Jack. She will try to stumble the most inept way to escape, and she will do everything she can to plunge everybody into messy danger.
And all because she wants to meet her father NOW.
Seriously, if she is a secret agent out to save the world, I'm all for it. If she's a French spy out to seduce and kill an English nobleman, heck, I'll send a carriage over myself. But nothing here can't be solved by a "Hello? I'm Clodbrained, I'm desperate, poor, useless, stupid, and dumb - yeah, I'm a romance heroine, how didya guess? - and I stole this horse because I'm too stupid to ask for a ride. Please don't kill me. I plead special mental handicap rights, yo."
Yeah, yeah, Claudia's the "experienced" one. Jack's the virgin, apparently he's a virgin because despite being so good-looking, he's the executioner and so nobody wants to shag him. Oh boo-hoo-hoo, bah.
The premise of My Lord Jack is conceived in a Tylenol-free hangover haze, and it gets downhill from there as Clodbrained's Evil Daddy - of course he's evil, or there will be no conflict! - and every other Nasty Dudes in the country are out to get them. First Clodbrained is kidnapped. Then Mr Jack is kidnapped. Repeat. Repeat.
If I'm a villain, I'll just wait for Clodbrained to get hands on a pair of tongs and accidentally put both her eyes out. She's a Darwin Awards winner waiting to happen.
Memo to Hope Tarr: if you can't think of a real, coherent plot for a romance novel and you can't refund the advances the publisher paid you, well, I don't know, woman. Surely you can think of a better plot that this pathetic exercise in outright vapid inanity?
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