The Blonde Geisha by Jina Bacarr
(Spice, $13.95, R) ISBN 0-373-60510-2
This isn’t erotic, it’s absurd.

It’s 1892 Japan and American Kathlene Mallory is obsessed with becoming a geisha. Never mind that she knows nothing about these women – she sees the pretty kimonos, elaborate make-up and hair, and romanticizes the hell out of it. She has visions of being a beautiful geisha and falling in love.

But her idiot father, an American banker, has ticked off the wrong person and they are now on the run. It doesn’t take Daddy long to realize he could move a lot faster and wouldn’t be so easy to detect if he dumped his daughter. So he goes to a geisha house and guilts his mistress, who happens to be the Okasan (the head geisha), into protecting his daughter.

Over the course of the next three years Kathlene lives the life of a maiko (an apprentice) and whines a lot. Oh sure, being a geisha sure does sound romantic and she just knows she’ll fall in love – but dang they have so many old-fashioned traditions! Kathlene has obviously never heard the expression “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” Then Kathlene attracts the attentions of the powerful Baron Tonda, who not only wants to deflower her but also kill her (again, thank you Daddy). Enter handsome American Reed Cantrell who has come to Japan on a quest to rescue Kathlene. Will he be able to spirit her away in time?

Do we really care?

If the above plot description weren’t bad enough, this book was written about 20 years too late. The purple prose needs to be experienced in order to be believed. Savvy romance readers will be bombarded with gems like, “If you let him taste your golden peach it will forever be spoiled.” Not to mention euphemisms like “moon grotto,” and “flower heart.” Lest you think it’s only female anatomy that gets painted with the purple brush, when the manhood isn’t referred to as “honorable,” it’s either a “jade stalk” or a “mushroom,” and naturally there is “Buddha-seed” involved. However, my personal favorite happens to be when the villain reminisces, “he had deflowered many virgins, his hot warrior blood and taste of victory winning every battle when he drove his manhood into the core of a girl’s pink blossom.” Just makes you feel all warm and tingly doesn’t it?

This isn’t erotica, it’s comedy.

Even if it is possible to overlook the completely absurd writing style, the heroine stands firmly in the way of any shred of enjoyment. When she’s not childish and pouting, she’s teasing and annoying. Every time she opened her mouth to speak I got visions of her stamping her foot and acting like a toddler whose favorite doll was snatched away. She’s like a 13-year-old girl who fantasizes about the poster of Justin Timberlake on the bedroom wall. She miraculously knows that Reed is “different from other men” and continually spins “falling in love” fantasies throughout the whole blessed book. And when the bubblehead has a chance to flee America with Reed she sticks around because she wants to become a geisha. Of course then the reader would be deprived of the laughable ending where Reed and Baron have a showdown that sort of reminded me of the old Speed Racer cartoon – complete with over the top dialogue. I kept waiting for Trixie to call the Mach 5.

Oh and did I mention that there’s a minor question left unresolved about Kathlene’s father? Like, is the man dead or alive? Minor detail that.

Seriously, I lost brain cells.

If Harlequin truly wants to break into the erotica market they need to stay away from “moon grottos,” petulant, whiny teenagers, laughable plots and give readers what makes the sub genre so much fun – frank writing, and intelligent, sexually confident heroines. Please, do yourself a huge favor – pick up any Emma Holly novel and stay far, far away from this one.

--Wendy Crutcher

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