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Hostage From Almacks

By Ima Reviewer, 2000, Savage Regency Romance (London, England and Northern Wisconsin, USA)

Grade:A+++
Sensuality:Subtly Hot

Romance readers - the long wait is over! Ima Reviewer, queen of the Savage/White Woman Love genre has taken it upon herself to rejuvinate the traditional Regency Romance. All this AAR Reviewer can say is “what a relief!” I never did get these Regency things anyway. Its about time that somebody faced the fact that all the good plots have been used up and you don’t really understand them if you haven’t read most of Georgette Heyer. Can you spell B-O-R-I-N-G? How clever of Ima Reviewer to borrow from that staple of American romance the Indian Hostage story, and develop an entirely new subgenre, the savage Regency.

Here at last is a refreshingly Americanized repartee freed from the dusty conventions of regency life. Our hero Wolf aka Silver Wolf, Viscount Badger meets heroine Penelope Hightower at Almacks over a cup of historically accurate watery lemonade. Needless to say, Penelope finds Wolf compelling. Could it be the loincloth? She accidentally walzes with him without being cleared by the Almacks society matrons who give her the cut direct! Naturally this necessitates the classic hostage plot.

Here is my favorite passage of Hostage from Almacks:

“Gee gaw rah ne," said Wolf,. "Brave most happy to meet you Miss Penelope. Me kidnap you from bad prejudiced women. Wolf take Miss in parson’s mousetrap."

"This is too much Viscount Silver Wolf. It is most irregular for you to have snatched me from Covent Gardens and spirited me away on your painted pony. Where are we going?"

"Ja Go te na," he replied. "Wolf not tell. All part of confusing jewel thief subplot."

Penelope sniffed. "I am making a cake of myself and becoming a watering pot! It is not the thing for me to be riding bareback on your pony without my maid. Not to mention hanging on to your manly torso. I am most distressed."

Of course Wolf takes Penelope home to America where she happily gives up her life as an antidote for life as a sexually fulfilled captive lover. Sigh. But this is just the start of this exciting story. Wolf must save his tribe. Penelope manages to defend them with her witty repartee and feisty demeaner. Georgette Heyer - eat your heart out.

-- Robin Nixon Uncapher

At the Auto Repair Center

Written by Justine Korman, illustrated by Steven James Petruccio

Grade:A+ to infinity
Sensuality:I don't think I know that word yet

I was thrilled to discover that readers could submit their own DIK reviews, because in ignoring At the Auto Repair Center, AAR reviewers have committed a grave error. This is my all-time favorite book, and it really has it all - excitement, suspense, tools, and a tow truck. Who could ask for anything more? This is a book that improves with each reading, and fortunately it can be read several times in one night.

The hero, Drew (aka the luckiest boy in the world) has to go to work with his dad because his day care provider is sick. Drew's dad works at the Tonka Auto Repair Center, and Drew gets to watch and even help as his dad repairs car after car after car. After car. The suspense builds with every repair; this time, it's the muffler, next time, a corroded battery! Then, a delightful mystery is solved when the reader discovers that the rattling noise in Mrs. Hamilton's station wagon is actually a - well, I better not give that away, because it's a real spoiler.

As exciting as all this is, the book really kicks up a notch when there is a motorcycle accident, and Drew gets to ride in a tow truck. A tow truck!

The illustrations are not what one would call artistically interesting, yet they really get the point across. And the point is that there are lots of cars, all with parts that need to be repaired. And did I mention there is a tow truck?

Clearly, this tour de force is not to be missed. Admittedly, its appeal is probably greatest for three year old boys who are obsessed with vehicles. For some reason, my mom's eyes seem to glaze over if she reads this more than twice in a evening. Undoubtedly, some readers lack the sophistication necessary to appreciate a ride in a tow truck. So I guess this may be intended more for true auto aficionados. And yet, who cannot relate to the universal experience of going to an auto repair shop? Not everyone finds true love, but sooner or later we all need to get our cars fixed. As far as I know, this book has no sequels, but I would like to suggest that the author write about something even more exciting, like Drew's dad fixing cement mixers.

--Duncan Barnhill
PS - If you enjoyed this review, perhaps you would like to hear my baby brother's opinion of Pat the Bunny, or read my essay on films entitled: "Why There Goes a Firetruck! is so much better than Citizen Kane"

Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare, 1594, Tragedy

Grade:D- (D-oesn't D-o it for me.)
Sensuality:What sensuality?

After enjoying Mr. Shakespeare’s rollicking comedy of manners Much Ado About Nothing (which is a desert island keeper and my all-time favorite comfort read) and being slightly enchanted by Midsummer Night’s Dream I awaited eagerly to get my hands on his latest reissue, Romeo and Juliet. I was in for a disappointment because this is nothing like his frothy comical romances I’ve loved. This is clearly an early work, written while he was still learning his art.

The events take place in Verona although there is precious little local atmosphere. Romeo and Juliet belong to two families which are fierce enemies. They fall in love, decide to elope together but die in the attempt, after which their families are reconciled. Of course there are secondary love interests, servants, princes, nurses, villains, monks and other standard members of the medieval romance population dotting the plot. Duels too, if you want action scenes. Actually this story was a bit too gruesome and scary for me, but then again, I had to keep my eyes closed half the time when watching Babe - Pig in the City.

Shakespeare uses contrived plot devices to control the events. This might be a spoiler, but I have to say that the Big Misunderstanding which eventually kills the lovers is ludicrous. A mysterious drug to imitate death is used but communication fails miserably which eventually terminates their lives. I say, good riddance. Talk about Too Stupid To Live taken literally! Furthermore, Shakespeare could have done his research and found an actual medical substance instead of using the boring old secret concoction.

If you hate long separations between lovers, be forewarned. The ”hero” and the ”heroine” spend very little time together and there’s little room for the development of their romance or for character development for that matter. They fall in love on first sight and that’s basically it.

Shakespeare relies on dialogue and writes very little in the way of description, leaving a lot open for the reader’s imagination. This is a good thing, but the downside is that he writes some of the most frighteningly purple, stilted dialogue I’ve ever read. The conversations strike me as very unrealistic and implausible and prevent all identification with the characters. I’ll treat you to this quote from the first chapter, and you’ll see what I mean.

Act 1, Scene 1

LADY MONTAGUE: O, where is Romeo? Saw you him today?
Right glad I am he was not at this fray.

BENVOLIO: Madam, an hour before the worshipped sun
Peered forth the golden window of the East,
A troubled mind drove me to walk abroad;
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city's side,
So early walking did I see your son.
Towards him I made, but he was ware of me
And stole into the covert of the wood.
I, measuring his affections by my own,
Which then most sought where most might not be found,
Being one too many by my weary self,
Pursued my humour not pursuing his,
And gladly shunned who gladly fled from me.

MONTAGUE: Many a morning hath he there been seen,
With tears augmenting the fresh morning's dew.
Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs;
But all so soon as the all-cheering sun
Should in the furthest East begin to draw
The shady curtains from Aurora's bed,
Away from the light steals home my heavy son,
And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out
And makes himself an artificial night.
Black and portentous must this humour prove,
Unless good counsel may the cause remove.”

The characters speak in verse, by Jove! Nobody but the dullest persons make speeches this long and meandering in a conversation. It’s clear Mr. Shakespeare did not have to worry about exceeding publisher's word limits. Romeo and Juliet is shorter than regular category romances but much more difficult to read, due to the abundancy of filler material. An editor with an ear for crisp dialogue could have shortened and sharpened this whole exchange. For example:

”Hey, you!” exclaimed Lady Montague. ”Have you seen Romeo?”

”Yeah, I saw him early this morning,” answered Benvolio. ”Looks like he wanted to avoid me, so I let him. See if I care.”

”He’s been a pain in the donkey for a long time, moping around like the sad loser he is”, observed Montague, Romeo’s father. ”The good thing is, he needn’t worry about skin cancer, because he sleeps all day and never sees the sun.”

Shakespeare has never been famous for his ability to write a scorching love scene and there is none in Romeo & Juliet either. For such passionate lovers, Romeo and Juliet are maddeningly chaste and left me yearning for proper bodice ripping. Maybe he’s impotent. The closest Shakespeare got to a love scene was Midsummer Night’s Dream but even there, the Queen of the fairies was under some sort of enchantment, and the thing borders on forced seduction or even rape.

In a way it’s a good thing they die, because if they lived together this relationship would never last. They’d get bored, quarrel over kids and fall head over heels over the next beautiful people they encounter. The whining, brainless Juliet would never be able to take responsibility for children, and Romeo is susceptible to severe bouts of depression and pure laxity as we witnessed in the above quote. They’d drive each other over the edge in a minute, even without any help from the warring in-laws.

Another thing I found disturbing: Juliet is only fourteen years old. She’s younger than my daughter who wears blue lipstick and plays with Barbie dolls and I’m expected to believe that she’s a mature romantic heroine who’s capable of everlasting powerful love. Not bloody likely! I’ll tell you a secret: She’s a kid who acts like a kid, period. She’s probably got pimples and a training bra. If she’s even reached her puberty yet. Romeo and Juliet is a story about puppy love on her part. I don’t recall Romeo’s age but if he’s a day older than 16 I’d sue him for messing with a minor. Ick! Do you think that the bereaved family of Juliet would really be likely to reconcile with the family of her abuser so easily? And who wants to read about teenagers' sexual exploits anyway?

Were I maliciously bent on thrashing the author, which I’m not, I might also point out that Romeo and Juliet is a tired redo of several earlier stories with the same plot and the same characters. I might mention that the pathetic lovers first appeared in Novellino (1476) by Masuccio Salernitano, later used by Luigi da Porto (1530) and Matteo Bandello (1554).The latter was translated into French and subsequently paraphrased in English in Arthur Brooke's Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (1562) and also in William Paynter's Palace of Pleasure (1567). I might also voice my sincere wish that an author of Shakespeare’s talent would use some original imagination without recourse to plagiarizing better authors’ work. However, as I want to avoid being criticized for viciousness and reviewer negativism, I think I'd better leave those things unsaid.

I need my romances to have a happy ending and felt cheated by Shakespeare’s DEA-ending (Dead Ever After). Despite my initial disgust with the characters and the failings of Shakespeare’s style I found myself rooting for the characters and wanted them to beat the system. But it wasn’t bound to happen, and it’ll be a long time before the cheated old reviewer picks up another new Shakespeare again. Romeo and Juliet will be recycled. Definitely not the stuff that true classics are made of.

If you’re a darkie narkie desperate for an overdose of tragedy, Romeo and Juliet might be just your fix. Die-hard Shakespeare fans will undoubtedly also love this. For the rest of us, the convoluted and oldfashioned style might be too much. Don’t waste your money when you can read the whole story free on the Internet.

--Maria the Ripper

Cinderella

The Brothers Grimm

Grade:B-
Sensuality:Some Foot Fetishism

Cinderella is the kind of heroine we can all get behind. She triumphs over adversity, not by scheming or bitchery but with unfailing politeness, elbow grease and a good takeover.

Cindy has not lost hope for a better life even though she waits on her ungrateful stepmother and sisters 24/7 and never sees the light of day.When she finds out the prince's family is hosting a ball to find a appropriate mate (he's obviously a beta hero) she tries to strike a deal with them, she'll clean all the chamber pots, shoe the horses, build an addition if they'll let her go.Of course ol' Step has no intention of living up to her part of the bargain she just wants to reap the benefits.

So SM and her unappealing daughters go off leaving Cindy alone and distraught. No dress, no ride no hope what will she do? Could I quibble with the sudden appearance of a fairy godmother? Sure I could, talk about convenient!!! Nevertheless I am impressed at her ingenuity when she takes some common household items, a pumpkin and some scrubby mice and turns them into a fabulous mode of transportation. Then she whips up an amazing designer gown from nothing. This dream come true is not unconditional however, according to FG, everything turns back to crap at midnight .

Naturally when Cindy shows up at the ball everyone is bowled over by her bodacious new look, especially the prince who up until this point was wondering why there were no great single women in the kingdom. They talk, they dance they stare into each others eyes. Unfortunately Cindy loses track of time and before she knows it, her time is up.. Since she has no time to explain she chooses to flee the sconce (BigMis Alert!)

Thank God she left that slipper behind! Princey assembles a task force to find his runaway bride. Here was another all too convenient plot point. Am I to believe no one in the kingdom has the same shoe size? But there you have it, he slips that thing right on giving him the pedi-proof he needs. They get married, leaving Stepmamma to choke on her envy and do her own cleaning.

This was a delightful story My only suggestion would be that the author use some more realism in future works. Dude, think of your creditbility!!

-- Christine Peterson

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