Hidden By Love
by Barbara Cartland, historical (1992)
Jove, $3.99, ISBN 0-515-10983-5

So here I am, taking a break from the current crop of romance novels and looking through my book pile for something to read when I come across Hidden By Love by the late Grand Dame of Romance herself, Barbara Cartland. I've never really had the chance to sit down and read a Barbara Cartland book from start to finish so I may as well take the chance to see what her book can be like. This book has only 157 pages so I guess I'll be done by dinnertime.

Oh boy. Where do I start?

How about the fact that nine out of ten paragraphs in this book comprise of only one short sentence?

Earlier she had shown the child in her arms the fish swimming below them.

Her thoughts went back to her old childhood and she started to sing a Lullaby.

Her Nanny had sung it to her when she was the same age as little Rahmi.

Because she was a Muslim the child had a great number of names.

The writing is bizarre. It's as if Barbara Cartland is rambling in her story, as demonstrated by the above four paragraphs. I have no idea how she goes from fish to lullabies to Muslim children having many names but there you go. Ms Cartland can easily go from describing a house to the people living in the house to the cows in the garden to the menu of dinner, leaving me trying to catch up. And to think, she writes in such deceptively short paragraphs, that sneaky woman!

The story is set in 1875. Our heroine Nadina Revon is taking care of her employer's daughter (she's the Nanny to a Turkish Ottoman's daughter) when British agent Lyle Westley crashes into the compound asking for help. She gestures at him to hide in a building nearby. When men start coming to look for Lyle, Nadina manages to divert their attention to elsewhere. Lyle repays his debt to her when the naughty Grand Vizier wants Nadina to marry him and he has to help her escape all the way to England. Along the way, they fall in love.

The thing is, Nadina drives me positively, absolutely crazy. I have never seen a more determinedly useless and feeble-minded nitwit than her. This is a woman who shrieks when the bad guys make a small move towards the building where Lyle is hidden, nearly giving the whole game away if the bad guys aren't even bigger imbeciles than Nadina. Nadina acts like some fragile China vase that swoons at the sight of any difficulty. She can't sleep on a cave floor even if the bad guys are after her! She's a lady, she is useless and is unable to function at all without Lyle holding her hand all the way! She faints, she gasps, and worst of all, she freaking takes ridiculous pauses at the oddest places during her conversations. I really don't know whether to laugh or cry when Nadina can't even say "be careful" without going "be... careful". Maybe some readers will say that Nadina is just a woman of genteel sensibilities but I suspect that she's actually an imbecile taking too long to formulate the words she wants to say.

"Do you think that is... wise?" Nadina asked. "Suppose they are... waiting for you and you... never came... back?

Nadina, please do me a favor, eat a football, choke, and die. Thanks. Useless, weak, has the brainpower of a slug, and she talks like a robot running low on batteries. Seriously, she needs to die.

"Please... God... take care of... him. Please do not let the... Russians find... him."

Die! Die! Die! Diediediedie!

"You know better than... anybody... Papa," she said, "the difficulties... facing us. We have... survived so far and we must... both get to... England."

I know mentally handicapped women need love too, but this is ridiculous.

"There is... no reason for... you to... come in here... with me. I will... shut the... window and I am... sure I will be... all right."

You know what? I change my mind. I want to die.

The heroine is a completely spineless idiot who epitomizes everything ridiculous about the helpless female stereotype and she speaks like someone who is suffering from some brain trauma. I'm glad I am reading this book only now because if I ever picked this book up as my first romance novel, I'd probably never touch another one ever again. It's just not a bad romance novel, this book, it's a bad book, period. The writing is more suited for a grade-school reader program and if I don't have to see another dot dot dot period nonsense soon, I will be forever grateful. I am never so glad to read the author's biography at the end of the book because look, no dot-dot-dots! And it tells the story of Barbara Cartland's many good deeds, which makes a far superior story than Nadina's... Great... Adventure.

It's probably a pity that Barbara Cartland doesn't write better. Books like Hidden By Love by the "world's most popular romance author" will only provide plenty of easy cheap shots for people to make fun of the genre. And don't assume that this book is published in 1972 and say that romance has come a long way since then: Hidden By Love carries a copyright date of 1992. With all due respect to the late Ms Cartland, I admire her accomplishments but her writing (along with her ghastly fashion sense) is not one of them.

Is there any Barbara Cartland book that isn't as annoying and stupid as Hidden By Love and actually has a heroine of decent brainpower?

Rating: 42

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