Saturday, July 7, 2007

When Love Awaits, by Johanna Lindsey [1]

*/***** (1/5)

Johanna Lindsey should have retitled WHEN LOVE AWAITS to MISCONCEPTIONS, MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND CONFUSIONS. Every romance novel plays out some misunderstanding or misconception between its hero and heroine, but this novel takes this plot device to new heights. WHEN LOVE AWAITS comprises of incessant bickering and one misunderstanding after another from page 1 to the very last. Johanna Lindsey is a bit more brutal in terms of violence than I'm used from romance authors, showing the heroine getting beat up by villains and almost raped. But brutal writing can be a good thing when it's fun, or when it's necessary to the overall plot, and/or when there's a suitable payoff towards the end. In this case, it isn't fun nor necessary, and there was no payoff at the end. Interestingly enough, even though we have beatings, mistresses and almost-rapes, the love scenes and passion in WHEN LOVE AWAITS are flat, Lindsey electing to take a lighter direction there. Again, the plot centers around misunderstandings while the prose is pretty bad, and the settings worst. I found the characterizations of both our hero and heroine equally invidious, not a single endearing trait between the two.

Another novel released in the mid-to-late 80s, it must have been fashion to have romance-novel heroes and heroines constantly fight over misunderstandings they refuse to talk about more openly. Ever wanted to scream your lungs out over an overblown misunderstanding that a simple talk could easily clear up? Well imagine screaming your lungs out over and over for 350+ pages because of it.

The idiocy of the hero and the callous, acrimonious nature of the heroine didn't help my enjoyment at all. Two things in this regard.

One, I don't understand how the hero Rolfe could allow his mistress to stay in the same home as the wife he professes to love. It really doesn't matter that the mistress misled Rolfe in believing she's carrying his child, he should have moved the mistress elsewhere. The point is, he's either stupid to believe a word the mistress spews at him and/or cruel to allow her to live in the same home as his beloved wife no matter the child situation.

Two, the heroine Leonie was way too cold throughout. Despite all the times Rolfe asks for her forgiveness and despite all the times he showers her with caring and kindness, she remains pretty stiff with him. The love scenes are equally cold if not moreso. Basically, they bicker and fight over and over and over during the day, go at it at night, and return to their bickering pattern during the day. She mistrusts his fighting ability during a tournament, drugs him so he's forced to avoid the tournament, then runs from his anger only to be captured by thieves and rapists. Towards the end, during a love scene, she thinks she can give everything to this man only to run from him the very next morning again. She believes everything Rolfe's former mistress tells her as well, and allows the mistress to take advantage of every situation. Instead of talking about it more openly with her husband or fighting with the mistress for him, she gives Rolfe a consistent cold shoulder.

The Story.

King Henry II has granted Rolfe d'Ambert the rebellious estates at Kempston, spread out over 6 keeps and various rich lands. Before Rolfe can rule, he must conquer and bring the various keeps to heel. The keep at Crewel falls first and borders Lady Leonie at Pershwick. Leonie's father extricated her from his seat at Montwyn after her mother whom he loved dearly passes away. Although Leonie blames her father for her eviction, it's her stepmother who drugs and keeps her father too comatose to comprehend and rein in his second wife's perfidies.

Although she hasn't met Rolfe, Leonie believes Rolfe a monster, a corrupt mercenary of the King's, while Rolfe believes Leonie behind the sabotages of his estate at Crewel. Rolfe has the King arrange his marriage to Leonie hoping to exact revenge and subdue Leonie into submission. Rolfe's mistress Amelia misleads Rolfe into believing she's carrying his child and Rolfe allows her to stay. Rolfe introduces Amelia as his ward, but Leonie heard the truth from servant gossip yet doesn't openly broach the subject to Rolfe.

Both Rolfe and Leonie harbor ill-begotten misconceptions of each other perpetuated by the books' antagonists that a simple talk could elucidate. This entire fiasco of a book climaxes to a pinnacle of a misunderstanding at the end which is easily dissolved in 1-2 pages.

You get the point.

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