by Jo Beverley, historical (2004)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21183-9

Having had some good luck with Jo Beverley's last effort, I can't wait to get into her latest, Skylark. Well, I'm disappointed. I think I like this author's books better when she's writing about heroines not in distress. When she is, as she does in Skylark, the stories inadvertently becomes an over-the-top Why The Heroine Is A Saint showcase of Virtues, Indecisiveness, and Martyrhood that puts me to sleep. The Too Virtuous To Be Useful heroine, if you will.

Our heroine Laura Grendyne is a widow who is always living in fear of her brother-in-law killing her three-year old boy for the inheritance. She has no friends and definitely no one to help her until she meets the hero who then proceeds to clean up all her mess for her so that she can finally be free to be Pure and the world will finally realize and appreciate her Purity. It's a familiar theme when it comes to this author's Damsel In Distress stories. In this case, Stephen Ball has always been in love with her and he gallantly helps Laura - who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because while she is Good and Pure, heaven knows she is Too Good and Pure to actually Do Something - and loves her while he's at it. And Laura, finally, finds the courage to add Love to her repertoire of Virtues. Give me a break.

Laura, predictably, at first refused to marry Stephen because she needs to find a man that will Love Her For Herself - or something in that vein - although predictably she follows a route in her life that sees her in her current predicament: friendless, hysterical, and annoying. There is some Emotional Development mumbo jumbo that only serves to allow the author to highlight what an irritating wet rag Laura is while painstakingly reminding me again and again that Laura is Virtuous and she must be Appreciated and Loved.

The mystery of the blackmail letter that draws Laura and Stephen together is flimsily developed, relying too much on happenstance, lucky assumptions, a really laughably lousy villain, and even a few coincidences. The result is an excruciatingly slow and suspense-free story where if I want to stay awake, I have to find myself really riveted at the Trials and Tribulations of a Too Virtuous To Be Useful Heroine and the Man That Solves Her Problems And Loves Her For The Too Virtuous To Be Useful Heroine that she is.

Skylark doesn't fly high, instead it pitifully squawks like a bird with its wings clipped. Maybe it's time that the author work on another kickass heroine, because her Too Virtuous To Be Useful heroines really get on my nerves with their pitiful babbling and posturing. The half-baked plot is only icing on the soggy cake that is this book.

Rating: 56

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