Counterfeit Kisses

Easy Conquest

The Faun's Folly

The Haunting of Henrietta

The Magic Jack-o-Lantern

Marigold's Marriages

Winter Dreams

Diamond Dreams by Sandra Heath
(Signet Regency, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-21449-8
This convoluted book is part Regency, part paranormal, part Gothic, part travelogue and completely jammed with description and information. Unfortunately, most of it is filler that the reader must wade through while waiting (and waiting and waiting) for something to actually happen.

After 26 years of quiet happiness, Ellie Rutherford’s life falls apart. Soon after the death of her mother, her father’s bank informs him that the family is penniless as a result of his reckless investments. This is inexplicable, as Mr. Rutherford has been the soul of financial conservatism. Ellie and her father head to London to straighten out what must surely be a mistake.

En route, at an inn where they have paused to refresh themselves, Ellie is accosted by Athan, a very handsome, very well-dressed gentleman who is convinced that he recognizes her from a risqué painting. When Ellie denies having posed for any improper portrait and refuses to divulge her identity, the ‘gentleman’ pulls her into a passionate kiss which stirs in Ellie an “incredible yearning” and the “need for fulfillment.”

The next day, the Rutherfords discover that they are, indeed, destitute. That night, Ellie’s father commits suicide. Leaving his funeral, Ellie once again meets the mysterious Athan and discovers that he is a director of the bank that embezzled her family out of its money. Athan swears he knows nothing of any wrongdoing, but, sorry, an investigation will have to wait until he gets back from a visit to his sister in St. Petersburg.

With nowhere else to go, Ellie turns to her uncle, an eccentric who is searching for the formula for a superb new porcelain and living on the estate (and the largesse) of Lord Griffin. Who is currently away visiting his sister in St. Petersburg.

Like many of this author’s books, this one depends on some fairly spectacular coincidences and the highly convenient psychic abilities of one or more characters. This one also requires the reader to accept that the hero and heroine fall deeply in love based on two brief meetings, a couple of passionate kisses, and two highly erotic psychic encounters that took place when they were hundreds of miles apart.

Even if my tolerance for the coincidences and the expedient paranormal elements were higher, I found it impossible to believe in a romance that developed entirely in the overheated imaginations of the protagonists. Ellie’s protestations of everlasting love were particularly annoying, based, as they were, on the fact that Athan is exquisitely dressed, breathtakingly handsome and probably an embezzler who caused her father to kill himself. Oh, yes, and those two mind-meld sexual experiences.

Ellie, by the way, has both of these explicit visions in the presence of other people, and one audience actually included her uncle. Ick. Ick. Ick.

The thing that finally put me completely to sleep, however, was the utter passivity of the hero and heroine. The book is chockablock with villains (Athan has a nasty, manipulative fiancée who makes everyone’s lives miserable, there’s an evil Russian prince who wants to destroy Ellie’s uncle over an old sexual rivalry, and there’s a subplot in which the prince’s loathsome nephew is plotting to steal a rare red diamond from the Tower of London). During all the machinations, both Ellie and Athan tend to sit around looking helpless until Gwilym the psychic stableboy tells them what to do.

Purple prose, head hopping, and some truly silly logical inconsistencies made the experience complete. (My favorite – Athan claims that he thought the Russian czar wanted a flute and a tambourine rather than a soup tureen, which is a cute little play on the English language. Except the author obviously forgot they were speaking French during the interview.) And I’d love to know what the author thinks “incontinent” means.

This book read like the author just made it up as she went along, which, if true, must have been a lot of fun for her. If only the reader could say the same thing of the results.

-- Judi McKee

@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home