I was going to do a different book before doing two in a series right off the bat, but I just could not stop myself because this book is so dreadful and I loved it so extremely much.
Book: Ann of the Wild Rose Inn, Jennifer Armstrong, 1994. And oh my god, this one really DOES have a rose stencil! As will surprise no one, it is completely hideous and it would look just awful stenciled onto anything, so here is what it looks like on a piece of notepaper I had handy.
Welp, there’s a “rose” for you.
I loved, loved, loved this book as a kid. I loved it, I read it to pieces, and then I wrote my own fanfic which was basically the novel with different names. This is a Revolutionary War novel, although Ann’s hair on the cover is pure uncut 1992, but it was just the world’s most romantic book when I was thirteen. This is the second novel in the “Wild Rose Inn” series, which I can barely say with a straight face, and it follows Ann MacKenzie of the MacKenzie family without all the endless Scottish brogue from the first novel.
At the opening, Ann and her friends Reliance and Judith are complaining about going to church and how hard their lives are, which I suppose is sort of continuity in the sense of “Teenagers Through The Ages: They’re All The Same.” Ann works in her family’s inn, while her friends are apprenticed, but we don’t actually learn what they’re apprenticed for and therefore missing the point completely, as the vast vast vast majority of apprenticed were young men who were learning a trade. Young women were usually not apprenticed; those that were, were usually orphans learning a textile trade. What would have been more likely would be if they had been indentured servants, but indentured servants in the Colonies were usually bound in exchange for passage over from England or Europe. But none of this applies to Ann’s friends, and I knew this book was going to drive me insane now that I read it for the first time in a decade and a half.
Ann has a twin brother, John, who is apparently a “hothead Patriot” ready to “run off to Boston and dance a hornpipe under the Liberty Tree,” which is an oddly specific form of rebellion. John is a big fan of Judith, though, and the girls tease Judith about this for a bit before Ann steers the conversation back around to how the British are being total buzzkills. Ann, gossip is always more enjoyable than political talk. They go to their apprenticeships/afternoon shift at the home office, and later that night we learn a Dangerous Secret About Ann.
Ann goes out late at night to meet John and his friend Nat on the lakeshore while they wait for a smuggling ship to bring in some rum which they will illegally be selling in their tavern. John gets overexcited, slips on a rock, and cracks his arm, and Ann seizes the opportunity to do something adventurous and leaps into the boat to go meet the smuggling ship. It turns out Nat is a bit of a slimy dude (oh, sorry, “shifty,”) and given the writing in these books I can only imagine this is going to come back to be important. They get their “passengers,” “Squire Rum and Mistress Molasses, and a fragrant friend of theirs, a Chinaman” and I cannot imagine anyone writing this, even in 1994, and thinking “hey, there’s a good bit of wordsmithing!” but all right. They spy a British ship, one of the rum barrels bursts open, and can you even imagine how much FORTY-THREE gallons of rum would be to have spilled all over your dinghy? (Heh.)
They get home safely, though I imagine smelling somewhat the worse for wear, and Ann asks her brother to stop smuggling as it’s unsafe. John, being a pretty dismissive bro, says “Annie, little hen, there’s no danger,” and I’d like to see the guy who can say that to his twin sister without immediately incurring a beatdown. “Little hen.” God. She pleads and pleads, and John points out (correctly, it pains me to admit) that their family’s livelihood depends on wine, and she won’t be able to change his mind. To avoid walking into their tavern smelling like they just bathed in rum (which, in essence they did), they wade in the ocean in a weirdly incestuous scene.
“’It’s me, it’s me, I’m a shameful scapegrace,’ John sang, leading her to the water’s edge. ‘But still and all, it wouldn’t do to have you smelling of smuggled rum when we get home.’
Ann stepped into the sharp-scented tidal water. ‘And does smuggled rum smell different?’
‘Sweeter,’ her brother said, pulling her in with both hands. ‘Sweeter, lassie, for it’s untainted by the foul reek of the British.’
Ann let him pull her, feeling the cool water rise over her knees, feeling her dress billow and swell outward in the drink…It felt good to be wet, to wade in the dark ocean on a moonlit night.”
Now tell me it doesn’t sound like that’s going somewhere else entirely.
They lurch into the tavern only to find the Allender, the captain of the British ship that’s been patrolling their harbour, and his navy officers. Allender comes over to creep on Ann, “he was young for his command, and arrogant with it,” which apparently does not sit well with Ann. He grabs her by the arm and she escapes into the kitchen, complains to her mom that they shouldn’t be serving the British, and her mother points out that they have to eat and British gold is as good as any other. Ann whines “I hate them, I hate him” and her mother awesomely says that she does not care at all whether Ann loves them or loathes them but she has to be there to serve them instead of running off at all hours
Then immediately ignoring what her mother said, that they are really busy and need her to help, Ann goes upstairs to change clothes and then dithers around upstairs for a half an hour or so reflecting on how much she hates being in the service industry and how much she hates being a waitress and how her brother is so angry all the time at the British and so on. She wanders down into the empty parlour and thinks a bit about her grandfather, John from the previous book, and remembers how he used to talk all the time about “his lost sister, Bridget” with her “wild hair tumbling all about her face. She was a fairy queen of delights to me then,” which is again, a strange way to describe your sister. Then it goes on to say “But Bridie MacKenzie had loved where she should not have loved,” which….okay, I JUST read that book and that is not a 100% accurate depiction of events. At the very end she even says that “I could have loved you!” to wimpy Will! Ugh. All right. Anyway, “Ann’s grandfather had died six years ago, calling Bridie’s name,” which must have been a stab in the back to his nameless, unidentified wife—pining after the sister you knew for a year when you were seven.
Tom Handy, the great-grandson of Wimpy Will, comes into the parlour saying that Ann’s father has been asking for her to come down and help out. Ann. Get with the program and go help your damn parents. Will tries to wheedle Ann into being nicer to him, but she shuts the door in his face, which is hilarious. In the tavern, more drunken men are having a drunken discussion about how evil the British are, and one says something about how expensive rum is, and creepy Tom says something creepy and Ann spills rum all down her dress again. Allender slimes around and asks “How did such an uncouth place produce a girl such as you? You’re made of finer stuff than this mean crowd, you know,” and then launches right into “Come now, Ann, I have watched you now for two months. Is it not time we came to an understanding, you and I?” I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, here—I don’t know if he wants to marry her, or just walk out with her occasionally, or court her properly, or why he’s beginning this with “I’ve watched you for two months” which is just creepy as hell.
Ann’s dad comes by and asks what’s up, and Allender tells him that she is refusing to serve him, and when Ann bolts back to the kitchen, her dad tells her “I’m sure he is a gentleman.” What, are all the men in this book idiots in different ways? John bursts in to see what the insult was, and they have a four-way discussion where John wants to throw the British all out, her mother just wants some paying customers, her father just wants everyone to get along, and Ann stares into the fire blankly and randomly muses about Scotland for a minute for no apparent reason. She asks John if he’d ever want to see Scotland, and he grimaces and says he’ll never want a country besides America and Ann should get with the program already.
The next morning Ann is out making soap when her friend Judith comes by and flirts with John for a bit, and then Judith turns around and tells Ann about all the hot British soldiers around expressly to make John angry. John leaps out of the window, accuses them of sedition, and Ann weakly says she’s never seen one worth looking at twice, and John puts his arm around her shoulder and says “Nor will she ever.” John, you’re acting like a douche. He leaves, and Ann is all afraid that Judith meant what she said, and Judith asks if she seriously would let a man’s country dictate whether or not he was hot. “That race of men is branded and ugly to me,” Ann says. Judith is irritated and stalks off, then Ann picks a fight with John and wanders off to “get some air.” Ann! Did we not establish last night that your parents need you to help around the house and you shouldn’t be running off for no real reason? You have chores for a reason!
She bumps into Reliance, who shiftily asks Ann for some money and declares “Tomorrow night I run away with my lover.” Ann asks “Do your parents know what you do?” which….I’m guessing no, Ann, since she expressly said she was running away. Reliance says “The devil can take that bitch of a seamstress,” about her mistress, and wow, pretty racy talk for a YA book set in 1774. It turns out this mysterious lover is British, which is why no one knows about him, and Ann grabs her by the hand and says “They are the enemy. It is wrong,” which is probably not helpful. Ann promises not to tell, and on her way home she runs into an old friend of their family, who gives her a whale eyeball. I swear I did not make that up.
It turns out that Captain Carter wants her to give the whale eyeball to her mother, since apparently he had quite the crush on her mother and constantly comes by the inn giving her gifts and practically courting her when he’s in town. What is with all the men in this town, why are they all awful people? Don’t hit on another man’s wife while you’re in their home! God. But the parade isn’t over because Allender slimes out from behind a rock, and Ann tries to defend Carter, and then Ann gives up and goes home because come on. Her mom tells her the soap is a mess now (unsurprisingly—Ann, this is exactly why you’re not supposed to do this!) and she gives her mom the whale eyeball gift, which her mom is very happy to receive. The idea her is that her mother is an antagonist, but frankly she doesn’t seem to be all that evil to me—Ann’s dad is too ineffective to run the place decently, so she keeps the books and runs things generally and if she gets the occasional gift from some guy she dated briefly as a teenager, more power to her.
John wanders in at this juncture, apparently not having done anything useful himself, and tells Ann that he thinks Carter has a gift for him as well, so I imagine he’s part of this smuggling ring as well.
The next morning Ann is milking the cow (we’ll see if she gets all the way through or wanders off halfway to go talk to a friend or something), and her father comes in and she asks if her mother was always such a hard person. Her father straight-up admits that her mother has always been straightforward and “of a managing manner,” but that it’s his fault for not shouldering more of the burden himself. Ann says that’s not true and hugs him. But it is true, Ann!
She finishes the milking and runs off again (AGAIN! Ann, your mother was right!) to go wander on the shore, and sits down on a rock to reflect on how awesome it must be to live in Scotland and how much she wishes Bridie could have been her friend. I don’t know, Ann, I just read it and Bridie was pretty mopey for pretty much the entire book, so I don’t know what a good friend she’d be. A man comes wandering along and greets her politely, and when she says “Good day,” he starts right in with “God amazes me.” Uh, all right. He’s been toting a big bag of mussels, and and tells her “See how God protects the weak? He gives the helpless things armor,” and Ann points out that he’s going to eat them anyway so it’s not that great of armor.
The Mysterious Stranger tells her that he’s a stranger from “around,” vaguely waving his hand at the ocean, and….is he a fish? He dumps all the mussels back into the sea, and Ann asks him what the hell he collected them all for if he wasn’t going to eat them, and he says “I don’t know. But maybe they’ll appreciate life, and not lay about, clinging to rocks all day.” Yes, I know many mussels with rewarding careers as artists, for example. He introduces himself as Roger, Ann offers to teach him how to dig for clams, they banter a bit about clam digging, and Roger tells her that she’s a philosopher at heart. Then Ann starts right in with “What do you make of this quarrel between Crown and colonies?” Ann, you don’t even know this guy! Quit asking his political beliefs when you know there’s a good chance you won’t like what you hear!
Anyway, Rogers reasons that the colonies are like a child growing to an adult, who at first needs guidance but then outgrows it. Ann accepts this at face value and then he offers to teach her a song, but she can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
(Hands up if you can see where this is going.)
Roger tells her that he doesn’t know how long he’s staying in Marblehead, and then tells her that it’s OK if she doesn’t say hello to him in town, and pulls his British Navy jacket out from behind a rock, and Ann rushes off weeping in shame. She complains that he was “impudent” and “rude” and says “I’ll spit in his face,” but again, I don’t see evidence of any of this. He was perfectly polite, they flirted for a bit, and now she doesn’t like who he is. She goes home to the tavern, ostensibly to work a bit (for once), and the drunk men there complain about the British sailors chasing all their women. Reliance’s father says that the other women in town would do well to follow the example of his daughter and Ann here, and it’s spectacularly hilarious but not intended to be, as he does not know yet that Reliance has run off with her “lover” and that Ann spent the previous hour flirting with a hot British sailor at the beach. Good job.
Carter the Smuggler is there too, chatting with Slippery Nat and John, and they condescend to Ann some more about how it’s OK that they’re smuggling because the British laws are unfair, and Ann thinks that it doesn’t matter how right they are if her brother dies in the process. They’re planning a smuggling raid that evening, and Ann asks if her father is going too. John says that it would only pain their father if he knew where the rum he sells comes from, and holy crap! I was kidding before about Mr Mackenzie being a sort of dreamy useless guy, but he doesn’t even know where his own stock comes from? Does he think it comes from space? The grocery store? Come on, man, open your eyes! Anyway, John tells her not to tell their father, and Ann gets pissed off that they treat Mr. Mackenzie like a child (which they do), and tells her mother that she should have married Captain Carter, because he’s adventuours and romantic. Her mother tells her that romance and adventure are no reason to get married and that’s a good way to get your heart broken, and I can’t disagree. She asks her father later that night if he wouldn’t rather be more involved with things, and he basically shrugs and says eh, it’s his job to keep his nose out of things, and his being so dreamy and out of it is keeping them all safe. Then it’s pointed out in egregious detail the different paths that romance can take: Judith is in love with John, which will probably end terribly; Reliance ran away from home to marry a man everyone hated and will throw away her entire life for that; and Ann’s mother married someone she didn’t truly love and is now apparently cranky all the time. Ann, maybe she’s not cranky because she married the wrong man, but because the man won’t do anything to help her run his damn business, her daughter keeps wandering away from her chores and won’t do anything, and her son doesn’t seem to be very helpful at the best of times!
Ann is supposed to work that evening, but “has a sense” that John is in danger and leaves. Again. She is a terrible employee. John and Nat went out in their dinghy to get more smuggled rum, but she spots Allender’s ship and watches as John signals the rum-runners, the British ship spots them, and they start firing on John’s dinghy. Nat gets them back to the shore, Ann helps John make it back to the inn, only to find that he’s been shot in the shoulder and is bleeding all over the place. Their mother tells Ann to patch him up and hide him while Allender storms in downstairs. Ann wads up some blankets and tells her brother to do his best to try to stop the bleeding, then changes her clothes and runs downstairs only to spot with the regiment, of all people—Roger.
Allender tells Mrs. Mackenzie that they’re going to search the house for contraband, and she tells them “Search all you like. And if you find my shirking daughter, send her down to work.” Nice. They stamp their way through the building, not spotting that Ann has blood all over their apron, and Roger happens to be the one who finds John upstairs and Ann next to him, frantically trying to hide them. Roger and Ann exchange a Significant Look, and then Rogers screws everything up by saying he hasn’t found anything but “the girl’s chamber.” All you had to say was “Nothing here,” man. John is busy not bleeding out but still finds time to interrogate his sister all “How do you know him?” and “What is he to you?” and really, I feel like he may have better things to worry about right now.
Two other soldiers storm in and then start leering at once, and once says “Thought you’d keep this one to yourself, eh? A pretty girl and a bed,” and again—pretty racy for a YA book! They pass John off as being in a drunken stupor, while he sings “My love is like the red red nose” and Ann complains that she’s stuck mending him, but….I’m not sure what you’re supposed to “mend” a drunken man with. He’s drunk, you pretty much just let him sleep until he’s not drunk anymore, right? How in the world is this a viable plan, and how do the soldiers not immediately see through it? I presume they’re familiar with the concept of drunkenness.
Downstairs, Captain Carter tries to distract Allender and his men and send them off somewhere else, but Allender arrests him instead. Ann tries to defend him, and Allender slimes around her saying “Ann, Ann, what an avenging angel you are, so hot, so fierce. You should direct that passion elsewhere….You are fierce, Ann, and delightful.” Ew. Roger speaks up to say “The lady is frightened,” they arrest Carter, and they’re off. Mrs. Mackenzie starts crying at the hearth, shocking her family, and says “that man” will always be able to hurt her. Ann, confused, asks if it’s Allender, and Mrs. Mackenzie says no, it’s “that devil Carter.” Mrs. Mackenzie goes OFF on Ann, saying “Things are not so simple as you wish them to be, Ann. You are angry when you are treated as a child, yet you will not leave off behaving like one. Shall I tell you the truth? Do you truly wish to understand?” and Ann is like yes, of course.
“’I was wild and willful at the age you are now, and I gave myself to Carter because I thought I could compel him to marry me. And then he went off to sea, and I was with child and no way to get him back. And there was Matthew Mackenzie, faithful as ever, and willing to take me.” Ann asks if her father, you know, knew, and Mrs. Mackenzie spits “Do you think I wouldn’t honor him at least that much? Yes, he knew, and still would have me. So we married, and that baby died.” Ann starts crying and begging her mother not to tell her any more, and Mrs. Mackenzie confesses that she still loves Carter, but hates him for trying to take her son away from her, and there is nothing on earth that could compel her to stop seeing him.
Everyone in this situation is singularly awful except for maybe Mr. Mackenzie, who just seems to be a doormat. Good God.
The next morning Judith comes by to nurse John, but he only tells her there was some kind of musket accident. Judith is no idiot and knows this isn’t true, but there really isn’t anything she can say. She tells Ann that Reliance was caught with her sailor, and finds out that Ann knew—nice secret-keeping, Ann—and Judith says it’s her own damn fault for falling in love with the enemy in the first place Ann points out that last week, Judith was saying country shouldn’t be a problem, and Judith says basically that now that John is wounded she doesn’t care anymore. Reliance gets sent to Connecticut and the sailor gets hanged for desertion. The end.
Later that day Ann abandons her chores (again) to go down to the harbour and runs into Roger, who talks to her in the middle of the street and no one says anything, which is weird. Roger tells her that although he is the king’s man, “I did not feel like the king’s man when we met.” He says that covering for John was his apology to her for not telling her that he was a British sailor, and that by doing so he had committed treason. Ann gets all flustered and tells him that sometimes she walks up the hill to see the sunset, and Roger says he doesn’t feel like the king’s man when he’s with her. Roger seems completely dreamy here, and this is probably why I was in love with him at thirteen and had a weird fascination with novels in which women fell in love with enemy soldiers that lasted for YEARS—I don’t want to explore that too deeply lest it reveal something twisted in my psyche, but I’m pretty sure that this book is where that came from. All right.
It turns out that Tom Handy saw the whole thing, and Ann stumbles back home with no idea what’s going on or what she’s going to do or why everyone suddenly hates each other so much. Back in the tavern the drunk men are trashing, alternately, Reliance and her lover, and Ann goes upstairs to avoid it all. Later that evening, she slips away from work (AGAIN! Ann! You are awful at working! This is why your mother is so crabby all the time!) and goes to meet Roger on the hill. Judith comes in on her way out, and tells Ann that she is too solitary and “should have a sweetheart,” and Ann blushes and uh-uh-uhs her way on out of there. Roger isn’t there yet and she immediately thinks he’s deserted her.
He meets her on the hill, and Ann asks why he’s doing this for them, and what he wants from her, and he tells her that he doesn’t want anything—he just likes Ann and wants her to be happy. He also reveals that he hates Allender as well and admits he’s Scottish—well of COURSE he is. They both wax poetic about Scotland for a while, then Roger braids her a grass bracelet and puts it on her. “Ann, darling Ann,” he says, “This could be my home.” Oh, it is romantic, I’ll give you that. Ann tells him there’s no way this can happen, it’s wrong and horrible, and runs home. The next morning she wakes up at dawn and stares at the rising sun at her windowsill, pulls on the board, and finds the secret bundle Bridie left there in the last book—a crucifix and a little wooden doll. Convenient. She stows the little grass bracelet in there and promises that she will never see Roger again.
The next day she runs into Judith while on her way to do an errand (for once), and confesses everything to her. Ann, you’re awful at keeping this a secret. She explains that it’s OK because Roger isn’t really British, but Scottish, and also he hates England and Allender and wants to be a patriot, deep down inside. Oh, I see, he’s a Good Enemy, then. That evening Allender slimes into the pub with his men, and Roger, and Ann cuts Roger dead in the middle of the pub. The drunk men get rowdy and debate the war for a bit, and Tom Handy yells at Ann that “We want to know which of us you’ll choose!” Uh, none of you, Tom, as every man in this town seems to be a gross creep. She dumps a pitcher of beer into his lap and Tom says “Can you not choose among the local men? Or do you have a taste for imported stock? Does the habit of bringing in outside refreshment run in this family?” Tom, you douche. What is wrong with your family that everyone in it sucks?
Tom demands that she pick someone, Allender slimes over and says she should try an Englishman first, Roger stands up and says “Sir!”and then hurls himself at Allender, and then a gigantic brawl breaks out in the pub. Ann, because she’s awful, just leaves straight out the front door and doesn’t come back until sunset. When she comes back she finds out that her father has been taken into custody, as the proprietor of the place, and John asks her again what is the deal with the British sailor. Ann says that maybe he’s just a gentleman, and John tells her that they’re all despicable and she just doesn’t know any better. John sucks too, Judith can do better.
John tells her that “if I thought you had any friendship for an Englishman,” and Ann displays a spark of spirit and tells him “Do not threaten me, John! You do not master me!” for once in her life. She leaves again (this seems to be a habit of hers) and goes up the hill, where Roger meets her, and she cries in his arms that he will kill her brother or John will kill him, and it’s only a matter of time. They hold each other, and out of the corner of her eye Ann spots Nat coming up the hill—what? Why? What purpose does Nat have to come up the hill to a cemetery after just having a fight? His only purpose in this is to come along all plot-device-ly and send Ann running back to the inn to see if she can meet her brother first.
But she can’t, and John grabs her in the street and drags her into the inn by the wrist. Good God, Judith, run now! John tells her that if he sees Roger again he will kill him, and Ann calls his bluff, and John says basically, you bet I will. The next morning it’s pouring down rain and Ann goes to see Judith and take her with her to the docks. She gets Judith to take Roger aside and pass along the message that John will kill him, and Roger is justifiably concerned that John has flipped his lid and is keeping Ann restrained somewhere. Ann pops out from behind a barrel, and Roger asks her to run away with him, and she declines, because that’s a terrible plan, Roger.
John pops up (apparently the blacksmith’s shop is a cool place to hang out on a rainy morning, since it’s populated by a whole gaggle of sailors as well as random townsfolks) and grabs Roger, trying to fight him. Roger refuses to fight him, because John is injured and Roger’s got all that “honor” crap, so John rips off his bandage and declares “My injury is no more!” That’s not how it works, Johnny. They grapple for a bit and Roger schools John, then says “I would not fight this boy. Send him back to the schoolmaster,” and turns his back on John. They scrabble for a bit more before being broken up, and Ann heads for home. John asks her to help him, and Ann awesomely says “You have taught me to love rebellion, Brother. You must not wonder at what happens now.” Which is amazing, because John is a prick.
That evening Ann finds out that Allender has sworn to catch John and Nat for smuggling, and Roger shows up a few minutes later all intense and asking where John is. Ann thinks it’s a trap of some kind and dithers too long, because Allender bursts into the pub a minute later, asking Mrs. Mackenzie where John is. Mr. Mackenzie tells them not to threaten his wife, and Allender belts him right across the face so Mr. Mackenzie goes flying and his hands catch him in the fire. The soldiers post a guard at the front of the house, and Ann flees out the back way to find her brother. She hops into a dinghy in the teeth of the rising tide, trying to stop them before they signal and are caught by the British ship, but she’s too late. Allender shoots them, they scuffle, Roger goes over the side of his boat, John over the side of his, and Ann hauls up John into her boat. She panics and asks him where Roger is, and John tells her that he’s gone. She rows them back home.
Later that night, John asks Ann what she’ll say if they’re questioned, and she says she will tell them that Roger sacrificed himself to save her brother. John basically says “nuh-uh” and tries to convince her that things are all A-OK between them now. The next morning Allender does come by, and tells her that “if I choose to, I can make you wretched,” and tries to bully Ann into “thinking more kindly” of him. Ann says “You would have me love you? You?” and Allender says “I did not think would scorn to love that Scottish peasant, Muir,” and hey, he finally has a last name!
Ann spends the next day sobbing in the parlor, and Judith comes in to console her. She spends the day in a sort of haze of grief, and goes up to her room to pull out the little bracelet, which starts to break. “Ah, no, my love,” Ann weeps (which is more than a little bit cheesy), and then John comes in gloating. John really is a prick. “I have something for you,” he says. “It fell off a British boat.” Ann tells him to shut up and stop being so prickish, but John begs and teases at her to come with him down the shore. So Ann drags her soggy self along with him until they come to an abandoned shore cottage, and John tells her to go in—where, of course, Roger is waiting, recuperating from his ordeal. He was washed ashore and found by, of all people, Shifty Nat, and John convinced him to do the right thing and let him live. Roger tells that now that everyone thinks he’s dead, it’s perfect, and they can run off to New Hampshire together. She agrees, and “They kissed, and the ocean brought them home into safe harbour at last.” Wait, what? That’s the last line?
Rating: B+/A-, this is way, way better than the first one. (Part of that is the nostalgia talking, yes, but still.) Ann is still kind of a wimpy character, but this is an action-packed story from start to finish, and it has everything! Girls eloping with the enemy! Romance at home! Twins fighting with one another! A family secret about unintended pregnancy! A double cross! Guys fighting over a girl! Exciting near-death experiences! All kinds of stuff is happening in this one! So even if Ann is a drip and her brother is a prick and all the other men in the book, with the exception of Roger, seem to be horrible in their own special ways, I don’t care, this book is hilarious and I love it. But not enough to give it a solid A, I’ll reserve that for books with some actual merit as books.