The Runaway Princess by Christina Dodd
Avon, 1st printing, 1999
Genre: Historical romance, Regency romance, nonsense
Jacket Copy: Masquerade
English orphan Miss Evangeline Scoffield has spent her life contenting herself with dreams. But with an unforseen inheritance, she can afford one perfect summer–a summer she will spend the rest of her life remembering. She buys herself expensive clothes, travels abroad, and presents herself as a lady of mystery.
But she quickly discovers her mistake, for a darkly handsome man appears at her bedroom door, claiming to be a Crown Prince–and her fiance.
Or the Ever After of Her Dreams?
One look into her eyes, and the prince recognizes her. She is his betrothed, the runaway Princess of Serephinia. All her denials cannot change that, or alter the passion that burgeons between them. To fullfil their destinies, the prince will do anything–abduct her, coerce her, or, best of all seduce his reluctant bride into his royal world of peril, promise and passion.
Book Report: Some of the earliest adult books I read were trashy romance novels. For some reason, I found them endlessly fascinating in elementary school, perhaps in part due to the displeasure expressed by adults who caught me reading them. Forbidden fruit, and all that sort of thing. When my sister Malia would take me to work with her at Jelly’s, I’d hang out at the book counter helping out Shirley the Book Lady–and reading trashy romances (Captive Bride was one of those I read at Jelly’s!). I eventually lost interest in them, until just after high school, when I had a sort of nervous breakdown. Not that being mental was a requirement for reading romance novels, those were just my circumstances. My eldest sister Heather introduced me to Jude Deveraux, who she read voraciously, as well as Catherine Coulter, Amanda Quick, Judith McNaught, and others, and I found them pretty entertaining. But again, I pretty much lost interest again after a year or so, and went on to other things. But hey, every once in a while, I’ll feel like reading one; the trick, though, is to find one that I’ll enjoy. But the same goes for any book, really. Why does any of that matter? Because I want you to understand when I call a romance novel total crap, it’s not because I dislike romance novels in general, or think that they’re total crap, or that I think their readers are total idiots, but that that particular romance novel is in fact, total crap. And that’s pretty much how I feel about The Runaway Princess. Read the rest of this entry »
The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel
Bantam, 17th printing, 1985
Genre: Alternate history, pre-historical fiction, fantasy
Jacket copy: HERE IS AN UNFORGETTABLE ODYSSEY INTO A WORLD OF AWESOME MYSTERIES, into a distant past made vividly real, a novel that carries us back to the exotic, primeval world we experienced in The Clan of the Cave Bear–and to the beautiful Ayla, the bold woman who captivates us with her fierce courage and questing heart. Cruelly cast out by the ancient Clan that adopted her as a child, Ayla now travels alone in a land og=f glacial cold and terrifying beasts. She is searching for the Others, a race as tall, blond, and blue-eyed as she. But Ayla finds only a hidden valley, where a herd of hardy steppe horses roams. Here, she is granted a unique kinship with animals enabling her to learn the secrets of fire and raw survival–but still, her need for human companionship and love remain unfulfilled. Then fate brings her a stranger, handsome Jondalar, and Ayla is torn between fear and hope–and carried to an awakening of desire that would shape the future of mankind.
Book report: Are you fucking serious? No, for reals, as not good as this book is, that jacket copy is absolutely terrible. Someone ought to be ashamed of themselves. I mean, Ayla wasn’t cruelly cast out by the Clan, it was Broud. They had no choice in the matter. And, well, nevermind. The whole thing is just silly. The important thing here is that Jean Auel goes off the proverbial deep end in the book, which is unfortunate, because it’s only the second (and weakest) of the series.
Don’t get me wrong, I was all about the Earth’s Children series in seventh and eighth grade. One of my friends, either Tina or Kym, was way into it, too, and we would make snide jokes about Jondalar’s prowess. That was right when The Plains of Passage came out, and more than any of the others, that book is all about fucking. Excuse me, I mean Pleasures. Yeah, that’s right, that’s what Auel calls sexing, Pleasures with a capital pee. If that doesn’t drive you batty, though, the novel itself will.
It begins well enough, with Ayla heading for the mainland beyond the Clan’s peninsula, and for the Others who might be there. Unable to find anyone, she settles in a valley for the winter, figuring to stay alive until the next year, when she can try seeking out her own kind again. As Ayla settles in to her new abode and goes into full survival mode, across a continent two young men leave their home to go on a pre-historic Grand Tour. Jondalar (OMG, he’s got violet eyes, blonde hair, and is like catnip to women–and did I mention his massive tool? because Jean M. will until you want to barf). Jondalar and Thonolan (love these names) encounter new cultures of people not all that much unlike themselves, and along the way, Jondalar not only Pleasures hordes of women, but also is exposed to flatheads, aka Neanderthals, or Clan. This is significant because later he will meet up with Ayal, and will need to learn a Very Important Lesson about humanity. Read the rest of this entry »
Nightwalker by Sidney Filson
Onyx, 1st printing, 1989
Genre: Thriller, action-adventure, martial arts, romance, trashy novel
Synopsis & Review: The Nightwalker stalks her prey through beautiful Hawai’i. After tracking him all over the world, she merely awaits the right moment to strike, ending the life of the man who murdered her husband, her unborn child, and her dreams. While she silently waits, she remembers what was …
Grey Coltrane is athletic, beautiful, and from an old family, and at her high school graduation, it seems like she has the world at her feet. But after leaving her sheltered life at the convent school, she discovers that her family has already mapped out her life. To preserve her family fortunes, Grey must marry an old family friend, one she loves dearly, but not romantically. Putting her dreams of romance aside, she accepts the marriage, only to discover herself in a living nightmare, a sham marriage. Luckily, it doesn’t last long, and she’s soon not only young and beautiful, but astoundingly rich.
At the urging of her best friend Llana, she moves to New York, where she meets a the only man she will ever desire: Khan Sun, a martial arts master. She joins his dojo first to interest him, but remains out of her interest in the sport, the way of life. Though she has the world at her feet as a fabulously wealthy and lovely young woman in mid-Seventies Manhattan, all she wants is Khan–and his love and respect. Once they are finally united, it seems they have the world at their feet. Until their happiness is shattered in the jungles of Taiwan.
If I had written a book when I was ten, this would have been it. It is so freaking awesome, in a not great at all kind of way. I totally loved it when I first read it (at age ten), and I had a hard time putting it down upon this re-read. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my Aunt Joanie and Uncle Jack would visit Hawai’i, staying with my tutu over the holidays. And every trip, Jack would bring a fresh stack of mass market paperbacks, presumably acquired at the airport for the long flight and hours spent at the beach or just relaxing on the lanai. And when he was done with those books, I’d ferret them out and devour the forbidden trash. This was my introduction to Victoria Holt, Jackie Collins–and Sidney Filson’s Nightwalker. Read the rest of this entry »
Once is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann
Morrow, 1st edition, 1973
Genre: romance, chick lit, trashy novel
Synopsis & Review: Mike Wayne was a gambler, and he was lucky. When he left the Army after WWII, he had money in his pockets from card games and craps, and he had his eyes on the two biggest crapshoots of them all: the stock market and show business. The preponderance of beautiful women in the latter decided him, and he began trying his luck. Mike made it to the top, directing and producing on Broadway and in Hollywood, with hit after hit to his credit, a beautiful wife, awards and acclaim, and a corner suite at the Plaza. When his wife produced a daughter, called January for the month she was born, Mike fell in love for the first time, and vowed that even if his luck ran out, he’d give her the world. After his wife’s suicide, he sent January to an exclusive girls’ boarding school in the Northeast, but always made sure to spend special days and her birthday with her. On her weekend trips to New York City, they’d go out, father and daughter, seeing all the glitter and glamour of Broadway, and sharing Dom Perignon and caviar. Upon her graduation, January joined Mike in Italy on the set of his latest film, and it was in Italy that Mike’s luck ran out.
After three years of intensive surgery and rehabilitation in Switzerland’s exclusive Clinique, January Wayne was ready to be reunited with her beloved father, showbiz mogul Mike Wayne. For the past three years, the only thing keeping her spirits from sinking into a morass of pain and depression had been her love for Mike Wayne, her Superman, her everything. She’d been consumed by her desire to reunite with him, thought constantly about how it would be when they could be together again, out in the great, wide world. And she was utterly unprepared for what it’s like out there. Mike wa married now, to the sixth richest woman in the world, Dee Milford Granger. After a series of flops and misses following January’s accident, Mike swallowed his pride and became Dee’s consort at hourse parties and backgammon tournaments, all so that he’d have something to offer January when she came out of the Clinique. Suddenly, not only has the world changed around her, but the great playboy, the man’s man she’d looked up to her whole life is neutered. And so January begins trying to find out just who she was, bewildered and beguiled by popular culture circa 1971.
January’s old friend Linda Riggs from Miss Haddon’s is now editor for Gloss, a fashion and women’s magazine, and Linda begins shepherding January through the changes in the world. Mike and Dee both encourage January to date Dee’s nephew David, and up and coming broker, so he takes her on dates to Maxwell’s Plum and Le Club. Meanwhile, David is seeing Karla, a stunning actress in retirement, but Dee is desperate to keep David from Karla, as she is also Karla’s lover. So she dangles January before David, inheritance strings attached. Meanwhile, January is falling for Tom Colt, another man’s man, but a writer, and one even older than her father to boot. Everyone’s desperately scrabbling for happiness, and if all these rich, talented, beautiful people can’t find it, then what chance does poor, sheltered January stand?
Before VC Andrews but after Forever Amber and Peyton Place, there was Valley of the Dolls and Jackie Susann. I was fortunate to stumble upon the then-out of print Once is Not Enough (along with Dolores–also in hardcover–and a paperback copy of The Love Machine) at a St Vincent dePaul bookstore. Read the rest of this entry »
Hunger of the Beast by John Driver
Jove, 1st edition, 1991
Genre: horror, total crap, trashy novel
Back cover copy:
It was the perfect hideaway for Dianna’s country weekend.
A place she could be alone.
So private … so secluded …
No one would ever find her there.
Except for Esau.
He lives in the cellar.
And Esau is developing an appetite.
For something soft … something warm …
Now the Wilkinsons have a present for him.
Pleasant dreams, Dianna.
Synopsis & Review: Dianna LaBianca is a theatre producer in New York City. Dissatisfied by her career and a break up with her married lover, she decides to get away from it all by staying in a remote New England inn for a few weeks. After nearly crashing her car on the way, the place where she had reservations is a smoldering ruin when she arrives. She finally finds accommodation at the unprepossessing Wilkinson Inn: four rooms, extensive grounds, stables, and a very unpleasant staff. And then there’s Esau.
Dianna’s stay begins pleasantly; though there is one other guest, he’s affable and attractive, and he and Dianna soon hit it off, quickly becoming lovers. Dianna begins riding again, something she gave up in her youth after a traumatic jump gone awry. And she spends time being alone, exercising her understanding of Zen. Then one morning she wakes up to see a startling confrontation between the inn’s dog Launcelot and a monstrosity.
The monstrosity is Esau, scion of the Wilkinson family. Born hunchbacked, deformed, and colossally retarded, his birth killed his mother, and at age nine he beat his father to death with a baseball bat. But Esau just wants to be booteful, and to love bootefuls and be loved by them. And now Dianna is his chosen booteful.
I found this squalid tome at Kapiolani Hospital when I was waiting for my mother to get off from work sometime during my seventh grade year. (Hospitals are great repositories of shitty books; people waiting there are captives to racks of the worst mass market paperbacks. When my mother was dying, I read a lot of Smithsonians and a singularly awful book called Neanderthal.) Years later all I could really recall were the nipples (oh god, the nipples!), the killer retard, and the climax wherein SPOILER ALERT Read the rest of this entry »
Captive Bride by Carol Finch
Zebra Books, 1st printing, 1987
Genre: Historical romance, total crap
Synopsis & Review: I’m going to have to just lift the back copy for this one, pardon me (read it aloud for the greatest effect) …
Impetuous Rozalyn DuBois would have had nothing to do with that rogue Dominic Baudlair had she not sworn to her grandmother she had a fiance. Now, caught in a scheme of her own making, the feisty beauty had to pretend affection for the virile stranger. She truly detested how his sinewy arms embraced her and how he possessively pressed her close. In fact, the blue-eyed hellion hated him so much that she planned revenge on the domineering rakehell by deciding to trick him into falling madly in love with her–then to drop him cold!
Jet-haired Dominic couldn’t believe his fortune when that saucy minx begged him to act as her betrothed. it was even better luck that she didn’t know he was her father’s greatest rival in the fur trade. He’d delightedly plunder the provocative chit’s ample charms, undermining his enemy with each arousing caress. The warm and tender feelings that surged through him could never be more than desire. The cunning scoundrel vowed he’d be the richest trapper in the territory through Rozalyn … even if it meant first making her his sensual slave, and then claiming her as his
The fiery brilliance, vibrant colors, and radiant glow of the Zebra Hologram Heart was a shimmering reflection of Zebra’s guarantee to publish novels of consistent quality. I don’t know what level of quality those books were supposed to be, but Captive Bride leads me to believe that it was the quality of total crap. Read the rest of this entry »