Educating Caroline
by Patricia Cabot, historical (2001)
Sonnet, $6.50, ISBN 0-7434-1026-2

What a mess. Patricia Cabot's Educating Caroline has a few - few - inventive moments of comedy, but it loses the plot soon after. The hero Braden Granville is a delicious psycho, and his dotty old father is adorable, but everything about the heroine and her family... eh.

Lady Caroline Linford, whose father earns his title from fixing the royal plumbing (hey, he is a real plumber, not some Casanova perv, okay?), is finally about to bring her family respectability. See, she is marrying Hurst Slater, Marquis of Winchilsea. The invitation cards are done already. Too bad Caroline has to catch Hurst playing Jacquelyn Sheldon's pony in a dark room at a house party.

She should call it off. But what if Hurst sues? Oh, her reputation! And Hurst saved her brother's life one night when her brother got shot by a Captain Sharp... oh, what to do.

Why, ask Braden, Jacquelyn's hubby-to-be, for love lessons on how to be sexy to Hurst, that's what. She'll be Braden's witness to Jacquelin's infidelity - without revealing that it is Hurst, of course, she'll pretend it's maybe a Frenchman - should Jacky sues Braden when he breaks the whole engagement off. The author sneakily lets Jacky hit below the belt by putting in a few remarks that Braden, Lothario and no stranger to married women's beds, is just getting a delicious bite in the butt by Holy Karma.

The love lessons are meant to be platonic, until Braden starts staring at Bore-roline in the theater like a nutcase and she goes all tingly all over. Her friend Emily tries valiantly to make Bore-roline break off with both men. Emily, mind you, is a suffragette who somehow conveniently forgets the "freelove" thing and hates all men instead. But I know why: the poor girl is so in love with Bore-roline. Their badminton games with birdies flying from one woman to another - oh, the metaphors! The imageries! Alas, poor Emily, she never get to free her innermost desires and marries some guy at the end instead. Poor girl. It must be so hard to never be able to be yourself.

Braden's psycho love is sexy, but that's it. Bore-roline is an idiot who is most vulnerable to manipulations by everybody - her mum, Hurst, her brother, Braden - that this story soon becomes a farce titled Who Can Bore-roline Trip Over To Please Today? I also don't understand how her brother can imagine that it is a good thing to keep silent about his suspicions on his sister's hubby-to-be. This ridiculous angle only leads to an annoying misunderstanding, a padded 100 or so last pages of unnecessary conflict, and most importantly, more delightful episodes of Bore-roline being manipulated up and down. It's like watching a boxer whack a punching bag named Bore-roline. It gives me a perverse vicarious glee at first, but it gets pretty old fast. If I have to read about everybody manipulating our heroine up, down, left, right, front, and center and our heroine getting increasingly constipated as she tries to be Supermartyr, dumbass style, I'd rather take an electric drill to my skull first. I have a feeling crude lobotomy is much more enjoyable than this boring, irritating heroine-with-spine-down-the-toilet--impersonating-faded-linoleum exercise.

Rating: 42

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