Ice Maiden
by Debra Lee Brown, historical (2001)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29149-3

I thought this author showed some promise in her debut The Virgin Spring, but her follow-up, Ice Maiden is a tragic showcase of what goes wrong when you put in all the clichés you can think of without bothering to check whether they make sense or not.

This medieval Viking story revolves around George Grant, a Scots cheftain, who gets shipwrecked and adrift on Fair Isle, a Viking colony in 1206 Shetlands. He sparks with this lady, Ulrika, who is having her own problems. Her brother is imprisoned and her fiancé is a menace she wants to be rid of. To do all this, she needs money - her dowry, to which she has to marry to gain access to it.

Now, Rika hates men. All men, according to her, are rapists. But thing is, she is surrounded by mostly kind and nice men, among whom include the stereotypical wise guardian and best friends. The hero refuses to marry the heroine because he too doesn't trust women. Then he sees her naked and says yesyesyes. Then he's mad because he's married to Rika. Huh? And frankly, it doesn't make sense why Rika has to marry a captured stranger when she could have married any one of her male buddies. Since she is giving away everything in her life to save her brother, why not marry someone she knows as a nice fellow? Go figure, really.

The story also relies on miscommunication problems. Rika has secrets that she just cannot tell George, and George has issues and misassumptions he just cannot voice out. Both parties end up brooding and sulking with misery, with one or two angry sex interludes thrown in to pass the time.

I really don't understand what is going on in this story. Every tried-and-tested romance contrivances is thrown in happily, but there's no attempt to make these clichés fit into the story. Hence, Ice Maiden is a curious showcase of self-contradiction. When it decides to utilize the dreaded Lil' Miscommunication Episodes device as well, ack, I think it's time I dash for the lifeboat. This ship is sinking fast.

Rating: 47

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