For this one, let’s go straight for a vault entry that is just inescapably bad. Just bad. Even as a kid I don’t remember enjoying this book. It has all the trappings of a traditional historical romance, but none of the thrilling payoff. It’s a sequel to last week’s thrilling entry.
Book: Stephanie: Heart of Gold, by Cameron Dokey, 1998. This is the third in the “Hearts and Dreams” series, which tells you from the cover exactly how awful it’s going to be. The teaser on the back is just as horrid: Share the dream, as the beautiful hope chest passes to a new generation and a young woman dares to follow her heart on a dangerous voyage in pursuit of true love. These books are part of the reason I begged and begged my parents for a hope chest and thought it was just incredibly romantic. I do have a hope chest now, that I got from my parents for a birthday as a teenager, but in all honesty it’s just a cedar blanket chest that sits at the foot of our bed and contains no hopes nor dreams.
Let’s get trucking, shall we?
Baltimore, 1850. We’re introduced to Stephanie Burbank, whom I can only assume is the titural Stephanie-with-a-heart-of-gold. The man she’s in love with, Maxwell Harrington, has just informed her via letter that he’s going to “see the elephant,” and we get a little exposition on how the Harrington family has fallen on hard times, bad investments, general insolubility, and so on. Apparently Maxwell won’t be able to marry Stephanie without any money, and Stephanie blames her father for this, since her father believes this Maxwell Harrington (which sounds like the name of an investment firm) is a fortune hunter. I’m reading this for the first time in probably ten or twelve years but I’ve got an inkling dear old Dad is going to be right on this one.
Here’s a book that I loved so much as a young teen that my copy was ragged and dog-eared and unfit for donation when I grew up. I cannot explain why I liked it so much now.
Book: Katherine, Heart of Freedom. Cameron Dokey, 1997.
This is the first of a four-book series called “Hearts and Dreams,” which tells you exactly how awful they’re going to be. I will note that on the back of it, it says “Boston 1776,” and on the very first page, it says “Boston, 1773.” Good communication between the book assembler and chief editor.
Anyway, as we start, Katherine (or “Kit” as will become apparent) is reading a newspaper and we learn that Kit is an ardent patriot and her mother is “passionately devoted to all things English.” Which does make sense as she is from England, I suppose. You can tell right off the bat that this is going to be one of those books where Loyalists are simple-minded, deluded, or otherwise blind to see the obvious charms of revolution.
I have to cleanse my palate with something not horrifyingly bad after the past couple of books, so I thought I would go with a much-beloved classic Dear America instead.
Book: A Journey to the New World, The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple: Mayflower, 1620, Kathryn Lasky, 1996.
Kathryn Lasky is one of my favourite Dear America authors, and this is the very first book published in the series and an awesome kickoff. Basically all American schoolkids grow up with the story of the Pilgrims, as flawed and full of holes as it is, and this is an interesting introduction to how, you know, there’s More To The Story than that. I also must confess that this book came out right around the time I was in Grade 4 and we did a unit on the Pilgrims and we all got “Pilgrim names” and referred to each other by those names for like, three months, and this book was like my Bible at that point.
Remember, or Mem as she is called, is twelve years old and going to the New World with her mother and father and baby sister, Blessing. They’re all “Saints,” or members of a church in religious revolt from King James, but the most important thing in the first couple of pages is that Mem and everyone else is just sick as a dog and vomiting copiously. Ah, truth in history. Continue reading
Even as a teenager I remember thinking this book was overwrought and stupid. Let’s see how it holds up. [Spoiler alert: Not well!]
Book: Louisiana Hurricane, 1860, Kathleen Duey, 2000.
Madelaine LeBlanc is the wealthy daughter of a wealthy man in Louisiana in 1860 (which I’m sure was abundantly clear from the title), but she’s discontented because she’s Deep and Introspective. She’s at a party with all the other wealthy people in Baton Rouge, but she just can’t bring herself to dance, since she’s too worried about impending war. Oh, wait, I remember why I liked this book so much—costume porn. Madelaine’s mother is wearing a “dramatic emerald silk gown with its cream-colored collar and cuffs of velvet applique.” Oh my.
I ordered this book especially because I was just that excited to trash it to pieces. I remember this book being awful, just awful, when I read it as a teenager (I think my local library stocked the entirety of the Avon True Romance series) and yet that didn’t stop me from reading the other dozen or so books that followed. I have a vague memory of this book being poorly-written and also racist, so let’s see if my teenage recollections hold up very well.
[Later, after I finished this review: this is the very first book I’ve reviewed that got an F rating! So that’s, uh, exciting.]
Book: Miranda and the Warrior, Elaine Barbieri, 2002.
As you can clearly see, the cover art is doing it no favours. Miranda looks remarkably clean in what appears to be a yellow chiffon party dress and neatly-combed hair, and the eponymous Warrior (oh God, this is going to be awful) is wearing buckskin and a feather in his hair in a fashion that I’m sure makes absolutely no sense.
The very first line is “The American Frontier, 1871” so, uh, specific. Miranda has given a bunch of soldiers the slip to go visit a friend of hers whose horse is foaling, and already Miranda seems awful for disobeying orders to go out unaccompanied in what is likely an open war zone. Smart. “The baggy male clothing and oversized hat that was her present riding attire aside, she had learned to use the curving proportions of womanhood to full advantage, when necessary.” We are one page into this book and I already hate Miranda.