Friday, September 19, 2008

45. River Magic (Kathryn reads Civil War romances, Part II)

The title: River Magic
The author: Martha Hix
Publication: Zebra, 1995
Got it from: Freemont's Used Books, downtown St. Catharines

You might recall that last winter I was on a Civil War romance bender and bought a huge stack of them for something like $2 at our local used book emporium. My first foray into the genre, as you well know, turned out badly. And by badly, I mean like Krakatoa's eruption turned out badly for the Indonesians. The pain of this particular novel having slightly worn off, like the pain of childbirth, I decided to persevere in my quest for the Ultimate Civ. War romance. So, the burning question is, was it as bad or was it the holy grail?

It was neither, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it. My review won't be as hilarious. I was neither disappointed nor satisfied by this novel.

Assuming that none of you have or ever will read this novel, I'll give you the lowdown. There's this pair of batty aunts, you see, who get hooked up with this magic lamp. Shh, don't ask questions. The round, silly aunt wishes that her three nephews will meet their wives on their thirtieth birthdays. I smell...trilogy! Cut to Rock Island, Illinois, where Major Connor "Easy on the Eyes" O'Brien (and I kid you not, that is what he's called at least once) is serving the Union and looking after a jail full of Rebel soldiers. On his birthday, India Marshall shows up, dressed as a grandmother and tries to worm her way into the prison so she can free her brother. Sexy hijinks ahoy!

You know, I was cool with a lot of this book. Crazy aunts who have no other desire than to see their nephews get married, and get a real-life genie to do it? Sure, why not! Young woman disguised as an elderly woman? All the better for hilarious double-entendres and scenes of old coots courting the fake granny! A heroine whose name is India and has sisters called Persia, America and Europa? Why not Australasia and Siberia, too!

There were, however, several things I didn't like about this novel. The first was that the romance blossomed too quickly between the hero and heroine. I don't like it when books do this. I like the tension to build for a long time before anything happens. Secondly, I thought that the bad guy was too caricatured as the bad guy. He kept being described as the ugliest thing on two legs over and over, and was just too mean and nasty (and I mean like incestuous nasty, among other things) to be believable. I also felt like I wasn't being told something in this book. Often the characters would say or do things that contradicted their personalities or just plain didn't make sense. I mean, I like a book with plot twists, but this one kept setting things up only to have everything veer in a direction I didn't expect. I felt like I was being jerked around and I ended up being confused half the time.

I really think this book could have worked better with more editing and I suspect the author was under time pressure to complete the trilogy. The ending seemed particularly poorly done, with the bad guy and his abused niece meeting bizarre ends. I don't want to give it all away, but the niece gets involved with the hero's brother so this sets him up for major pain and torture for the next novel. Frankly, it doesn't make me want to read about the other two brothers, because one seems to be a tortured jerk and the other one is just a jerk. Because this book was somewhat fun, but had some serious flaws, I'm going to brand it in the B-/C+ category.

Until the next one! We're not through yet, Civil War romance...

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