Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Lion's Lady

I’m wending my incredulous way through one of my sister’s romance novels.  It's called The Lion's Lady, and was written by a writer with the suitably harlequin-esque name of Julie Garwood.  I like romance novels. They're the only sort of book I feel comfortable reading in the bathtub.  If I drop one in the water, it improves the plot. 
            The book concerns a charming young English lady raised in America among the Dakota, so that she may one day return to England in order to dispatch her father (deposed king of an ambiguous principality) for the crime of torturing his populace, having her mother declared insane and then leaving a bloody trail in his wake as he chased his actually-completely-sane wife all the way to the colonies.
            Naturally, on her return to Fair Albion, our comely heroine is seriously distracted by the most eligible bachelor in England, only he’s not generally regarded as particularly eligible, because his countenance is so steep and stern and cold that he sends debutantes squeaking in fright.  Except that he’s not really cold and cruel, he’s just tormented by the nightmares engraved on his soul by his years in His Majesty’s Service.  Honestly, in almost every single regency romance novel ever written, the aristocratic hero is a double agent posing as a roué to hide his work for the secret service.  It’s a wonder that people didn’t, as a matter of course, address aristos with the words “Ah, my dear Lord _____.  Been rattling off to the continent and topping venal traitors to the crown this week, eh, what?”  
            With the deep spiritual understanding given to her by her years among the Indians, Christine instinctively understands all this and the two of them fall passionately into bed – or a convenient bathtub - every 15 pages all the way through the book. And because he’s eligible she thinks the fuss and bother of marrying him would be a good smokescreen for her real mission in England. It’s not as if she’s actually attracted to him.  Goodness, no.  That passionate grope on the balcony on page 32 was just a once-off. Seriously.
            In the course of their romance, the eligible bachelor foils carriage-loads of ruffians bent on mayhem and ravishment, and she proves how capable she is by foiling even more ruffians, while simultaneously driving him demented by making lots of obscure pronouncements about Great Spirits and Buffaloes (Mr. Eligible needs cease to let himself be sidetracked wondering where a proper English Miss met real live buffaloes, and start being infuriated by the idiocies that she spouts as deep spiritual Indian wisdom.)
            The book is a real bodice-ripper.  I counted three dresses lost to passionate shredding, ditto two dressing gowns, and another dress lost to an amorous encounter with bathwater.  (That’s another thing about Regency romances; the characters bathe so often that they present their calling cards with pruney fingers.  And tread the floorboards of their Inigo Jones townhouses with pruney toes, because the heroines are far too postmodern to wear slippers!)
            Ah yes, the denoument. The His Majesty's Secret Service helps Christine to top her dad (because he turned out to have previously topped an awful lot of the secret service) and they find lots of jewels that he buried under a rosebush (which they send to his destitute nation - to buy bread and powdered milk and disposable diapers, I presume) and Christine and Mr Eligible get married and live happily (but not too happily, because then she wouldn’t have any more excuses to look feisty and coy and trip him onto hearth rugs for passionate make-up sex) ever after.

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