19 October, 2011
Retro Review: The Prize by Brenda Joyce
God almighty I hated this book. It wasn't just my bitterness at the untimely end of the Francesca Cahill series, it was the blatant racism, the TSTL heroine and the right out of 1979 hero. There was just about nothing I liked going on. Don't believe me? Let's take a look back to October of 2004. (I'm here. It's okay. We can do this together.)
According to the enthusiastic foreword, Brenda Joyce has been convinced to return to writing the "kind of books her fans love" about times when "men were men". This requires that I be exceedingly bitter and retract everything I've said about Joyce growing into her talents. (If this new direction corrupts her Cahill novels I’m going to have to Take Action.) Not only is The Prize a step (way) back to her early days of heroines loving men who abuse them, it’s filled with pointless mayhem, bewildering character motivations and out and out racism.
The racism falls in the form of our heroine’s best, best, bestest friend, Tillie, the slave. (To my mind, this is always dangerous ground because the act of owning someone negates the open give and take of friendship, but I’m willing to allow for it.) Tillie’s husband is deeply concerned that the plantation is placed up for sale, and the slaves as well. Tillie is worried our heroine isn’t getting enough to eat at the expensive boarding school. (Tillie alternates between patois and proper speech, but she never does learn anything about birthing babies.) After our heroine COMPLETELY FORGETS the danger facing her best best friend Tillie for five long months, Tillie welcomes her back with open arms, concern for her well-being, and (by golly) a good meal. Later, when our heroine’s blatant idiocy has trapped them in a fire fight, with Tillie’s husband most likely dead, it’s our heroine who occupies Tillie's mind because that’s the kind of best friends they are. The kind where you have to protect this sheltered delusional nitwit or spend the rest of your life being raped and beaten by whoever owns you next while your children are god knows where.
Don’t despair! Our heroine is about to fall hopelessly in love (for no apparent reason) with a cold, violent pirate driven to destroy her entire family. Ok, well, of course she tries to shoot him first, but then she freely offers him no strings sex because how can you NOT love a guy who is busy causing the death of countless others? And really, later you’ll find out it’s all because his baby sister was ‘killed’ and his father was beheaded by your uncle during an Irish uprising. It’s hardly his fault. I mean, his mother got over it, his brother got over it - someone had to be scarred for life!! Though his brother is in love with you, (apparently solely because you know how to let a guy bang you senseless and not even leave a buck on the pillow the next day) he is going to fight to help you save said cold thuggish pirate dude. Barely affected by learning of his six year affair with your aunt, whom you bravely comfort because you are Warm and Good, or of his tossing any skirt that walks by because it is Just Sex, (he totally gets by with the “I banged her and thought of you because she is nothing and you are virgin-like” crap) you offer yourself for misuse again and again against the day that - will it come? Could it come? Yes! One day he will stop trying to kill the man who killed his father and give their country estate to the son who tried to murder him and rape you so that the British will stop fighting the War of 1812 or something like that. Who the hell knows. Not Tillie - she’s too busy trying to keep off the auction block to figure your cracker asses out.