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Blackthorne by Ruth Langan
(Harlequin, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29035-7
**
In contrast to the 1-5 heart rating system we have going here at The Romance Reader, I have another method of judging the merits of the romances I am assigned to review. It's McGuire's Foolproof Sleep System and it works like this:

If the book in question puts you to sleep in:

1-15 minutes – it's an insomniac's dream, a romance reader's nightmare
15-30 minutes – it's a toss-up – could be a boring book or a hard day at work
30-45 minutes – try reading it when you're not in pajamas to see if it improves
45-60 minutes – it's worth buying one of those little bitty book nightlights
60+ -- call in sick tomorrow 'cause you ain't getting' any sleep!

Now, I did have a hard week, so in the interest of fairness I went back and re-read portions of Blackthorne before I sat down to write this review. When I woke up I realized I was right the first time. It's boring.

It's not even bad boring, its just been there done that boring. The perfectly beautiful orphaned country lass who wins the heart of her perfectly handsome employer by bringing light and love into his dour world. Throw in a cute as a button kid, a crippled brother, evil relatives and a dark "secret" and you've got a cookie cutter romance which, while occasionally benefiting from a laugh or two, is just a pale reminder of another romance that did it all first, and better. That one was called Jane Eyre.

When Olivia St. John arrives in London after the death of her parents and finds out that her aunt, uncle and cousins are miserable human beings, she quickly hightails it back to the country and the estate of Lord Quentin Stamford, a close friend of the King who returned from his throne-sanctioned privateering with a small Jamaican boy in tow. The boy needs a governess and Olivia fits the bill.

Everyone in the place takes to Olivia's kindhearted and jovial ways, including Quentin. When the King comes for an extended visit, he too is entranced by Olivia. Rather bookish and fond of butterflies thanks to her scientific parents, Olivia is a placid creature until Quentin starts puttin' the moves on her. She resists him of course (this is 1662) but that doesn't last very long. And just when you think things will all work out for the best…Olivia's evil relatives show up and start making trouble and Olivia hasss…….zzzzzzzz.

Oh. Sorry. Drifted off there for a minute.

With the exception of a housekeeper who curses up a blue streak with some particularly inventive invectives, and a lighthearted depiction of England's King Charles, Blackthorne simply doesn't have very much to recommend. The hero and heroine are completely generic down to their rather emotionless, by-the-book love scenes. Little is revealed about the hearts and minds of these characters. Quentin's transformation from sulky Lord of the Manor to Mr. Nice Guy is convenient, quick, and painless. Olivia's perfection is just vanilla.

Call me harsh if you wish. But I think the one thing a reviewer must be when reviewing a book, (aside from honest, of course) is…awake.

--Ann McGuire


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