by Diane Whiteside, historical (2004)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0792-1
Like too many erotic historical romances, Diane Whiteside's debut The Irish Devil centers around the hero and the heroine having to strike a bargain where she will be forced to have sex with him. I don't know why authors can't write about people who have sex without having to be forced into such a situation but I won't be complaining too much if the result is an enjoyable story. It isn't. By page 160, no matter how much domination/submission elements Ms Whiteside adds into her story, the horribly inconsistent heroine and the tendency for characters to behave stupidly for the sake of conflict drive me up the wall and beyond.
The Irish devil in question is William Donovan, a lusty man who is ocstracized by the people of the mining town Rio Piedras in Arizona because he is Irish. He had a hard life in the past and now that he is wealthy thanks to a successful freight venture, nobody still wants to be his wife or give him the respectability he craves. The poor guy is forced to slake his frustrations in the brothels of the town, aww. Naturally, it takes a desperate woman to overlook his pedigree, his bags of money, his hot body, and other unappealing traits to see the man inside and this woman is Viola Ross. She married beneath her to save her daddy and her brother from the machinations of her evil mommy and now her husband is murdered and the murderer is forcing her to marry him. Just call her Olive Oyl and the villain Bluto.
Forced to quit her post-widowhood noble stint as a laundry woman by the lusty attentions of Paul Lennox, Viola has no choice but to throw herself at William and offers to be his mistress for three months in exchange for money for her to flee to San Francisco and start life anew, where with her intelligence she would no doubt be forced to sell herself again to get to, oh, San Antonio perhaps, in two weeks' time.
Okay, Viola is pretty strong at first in that she can take care of herself and even fend off Paul on her own, but once she becomes William's mistress, her brainpower vaporizes faster than snow in a nuclear explosion and she becomes a classic too-stupid woman. Worse, her scenes with William generally see her acting like a simpering little girl whose everything, from her clothes to how she will act in the bedroom, is determined by William's whims and desires. If I have to decide between Viola and a blow-up doll as the least irritating of two, I'll go with the blow-up doll because at least the doll doesn't act like a creepy sexually-active thirteen-year old girl. Then there is William's tendency to call her all sorts of baby and even horsey nicknames of endearments that make reading his scenes with Viola even more irritating. Why can't they incorporate a gag into their games is beyond me.
The last few chapters dealing with the denouement are actually quite good to read, especially when Viola magically gets her spine back when William is in trouble, but by then I am still recovering from the tedious first two-thirds of the book where she acts like a simpering idiot around a man who reminds me too much of a lecherous old coot taking advantage of a silly girl. The absence of any scenes outside the bedroom that give me any insight into their supposedly developing emotional bond doesn't help matters. Too much of this book is made up of scenes where the hero gets off from the heroine acting like a helpless ninny and that kind of thing is not my idea of fun.
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