Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Seaswept Abandon by Jo Goodman ***

This is the second in the McClellan trilogy by Jo Goodman, and it takes place during the American Revolution. The McClellan family has 5 adult offspring, 3 of whom have their own books, and have lived in Virginia on a rather large expanse of land for... a long time.

This is daughter Rahab aka Rae's story, and her hero is the mysterious, shadowy Smith of book 1, Crystal Passion. Smith helped save Ashley, Salem McClellan's bride, from her notorious uncle/guardian, the Duke of something-or-other. Ashley is now helping Salem in his war efforts by being a courier, posing as a Loyalist and delivering secret dispatches to the Patriots. In a rather contrived setting, she sends Rae on one of her missions while Rae is recovering from laryngitis. This is key because Rae cannot talk. Ashley is secretly hoping to get Rae out of her funk over losing her beau to her younger sister (ain't that a bitch) by getting her out in the world. By sending her to a bar where British redcoats drink and whore, so she can meet a spy and pass correspondence. Go figure.

Rae goes and doesn't see the gent she is supposed to meet. And - now follow closely - the bartender mistakes her for a new hire barmaid, and she decides to play along, for the adventure. Even though, remember, she cannot talk.

Turns out the gent she's supposed to meet has sent Smith in his place, since Smith knows Ashley. In a "cute" turn of events, apparently Ashley and Salem have been trying to fix up Smith and Rae all along, but they have never met. Is this the way a spy business is really run??

Let's see... a bar patron feels up Rae, she objects (silently), he objects to being objected to and she stabs him. To death. Oooops. Smith, having given up on getting the dispatch from Ashley, steps in to rescue her, takes her up to his room where they climb out the window and run off to a boat. Damn if she doesn't contract Brain Fever on the way to the boat, so she's unconscious for 3 days and wakes up WITH AMNESIA. Yeah. Go figure.

Already my limits of credibility have been stretched and snapped. Boing. That's them snapping.

He thinks she's a barmaid/whore, so he tells her that. She's amnesiac and figures he must know. He, however, remains honorable and doesn't boink her. At least not right away.

Jericho Smith didn't reveal any of his background in the first story, not even his first name, but we learn he was the bastard son of an earl who eventually married his mother and was then killed right away. Should have left him the earldom, but some other cousin stepped in, had young Smith put on a ship to somewhere and declared himself the Earl. Smith managed to survive, make it to America, live among the Indians, and become a stealthy Patriot spy. There. Now we have that setup.

Rae's brothers figure out that it was Smith who abducted/rescued Rae from the bar, and track him down and try to beat him up for violating their sister. Their sister who doesn't even know who they are because of her Brain Fever Amnesia. Remember how they were all secretly hoping Smith and Rae would hit it off? Well, they didn't exactly plan for him to live with her for a week on a boat, thinking she was a whore and boinking her senseless. They take her away, a long time goes by and then Smith and Rae are reunited after she gets her Memory back.

Rae is about the stoopidist heroine Jo Goodman ever wrote. Maybe THE stoopidest - until I finish her backlist, I can't be sure. What a dolt. She isn't exactly feisty or hoydenish - she's just misguided and wrong-headed. And that amnesia thing... Puhleeze. Only Goodman's way with words kept this from dipping into 1 star or even DNF territory. The Duke sends someone to kidnap Ashley or one of her children, and Rae intercepts the kidnapper and stoopidly tells him SHE is Ashley. Not out of heroism, or with great forethought, just cuz it popped out of her stoopid mouth. Since the kidnapper caught her sucking Smith's tonsils out, he went along, saying he was Salem. After all, it wouldn't do Ashley any good to have it known she was sucking the tonsils out of another man, would it?

The kidnapper(s) take Smith and Rae to England - blah blah, long story here - and once there, try to ransom her to the Duke. Rae - ok, did I mention she's stoopid? She has this thing about alcohol. From what I can tell, she never drank any until the night she ran Ashley's little errand, and somehow even though she drank enough to fell a horse, she recovered very quickly then. Now, the kidnappers put drugs in the wine they bring Salem and Rae - and poor thirsty Rae drinks all of it. And is out for the count, leaving Smith with an unconscious girlfriend to deal with while he executes his escape plan. He's a smart fellow - he leaves her, and swims to shore.

She gets taken to the Duke who takes one look at her and says, she ain't the one, and tells the footman to "take care of her". Since the footman has never seen The Sopranos, he actually thinks he's supposed to Take Care of Her - as in, make sure she is well, and dry, and fed. She ends up in the Duke's employ. Meanwhile, Smith has transformed himself into Quality, and coincidentally runs into her on her day off in town. When he tells her his plan of how he will take care of the Duke problem so Ashley and her children will be forever safe, I thought "what a smart fellow he is, it will work!" but Rae thought "I'm smart and don't need no stinkin' man to take care of me" and says she wants to go back to the Duke's house and take care of him herself.

This after he reminds her, RIGHTLY SO, she has never been able to take care of herself, and has always needed her father or brothers or Smith to rescue her from all kinds of stooooopid scrapes.

What a stoopid twit she is.

Smith gets perty dang mad at her, mad enough to force her. Force her to go with him? Nope. Force her aka rape her, then leave her, after some bitter words are spoken. Boy, did he catch her stoopid virus or what? He shoulda knocked her out and taken her home. Instead he rapes her, like that solves anything. Hello, Ms. Goodman, what were you thinking??

Look - there was a HEA after some nail-biting scenes where Smith has to win a game of whist to (1) get his Earldom back and (2) win Rae's freedom from the Duke and (3) dodge a bullet, or 2. And really, Goodman does have a way with words that made even a stoopid twit's story be readable.

But I worried about the McClellan family back in Virginia, because after the kidnapping, we never heard about them again, ever. Did they worry about Rae and Smith? Did they think they drowned? Did they realize they were kidnapped, and try to follow? Did they ever receive Rae's letter to them? Maybe this will be revealed in Book 3, Tempting Torment, where hopefully poor Noah will get a smart heroine.

Dunno. 3 stars.

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