I Do by Mimi Riser
(LoveSpell, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-505-52561-5
*
This book is like an out of control merry-go-round, spinning madly, with the passengers screaming and hanging on for dear life. When it stops, they all stagger off the ride to discover they’ve gone…nowhere.

The year is 1883, and Dorcas Jeffries is supporting herself after the death of her beloved aunt by working as a companion. She is accompanying Lady Flora to the plains of Texas where the MacAllister clan has built a huge Scottish castle from adobe bricks. Flora is to marry Alan, the laird.

Dorcas discovers that Flora loves another and insists (over Flora’s objections, mind you) on posing as Flora long enough for the lovers to escape. To her chagrin, the MacAllisters aren’t bothered: “Florie oor Dorie, ‘tis such a wee dif’rence. Dinna ye fear, lassie, Alan’ll still wed ye.”

When Dorcas objects (what a surprise, she’s sworn never to marry), she’s locked in a tower. With the help of a mysterious cat, she climbs out a window and down a tree, falling into the arms of a Comanche. (She recognizes him specifically as a Comanche from the stories she heard as a child from her aunt’s close friend, Dr. Earnshaw). He speaks excellent English, so she begs him to help her escape. After all, he has a horse and a lance – that makes him kind of like a knight, right?

No one but Dorcas is surprised when the Comanche turns out to be Laird Alan. He returns her to the castle, where she is astonished to find Dr. Earnshaw in residence. What a coincidence!

In the land of romance, Dorcas is the new queen of twits. She’s so ditzy, I was never actually sure of her sanity. She sees a black cat that no one else can see. She thinks she’s being drugged. She thinks she’s being hypnotized. She talks out loud to herself, constantly. She thinks Earnshaw is inventing a disintegrating ray gun. She thinks the MacAllisters have put something into the lamp oil to fog her thinking. The reader may be forgiven for not believing her when she says she knows her own mind. Or that she has one.

Everything she doesn’t like (and she doesn’t like much) sets off a shrieking tantrum. It gets pretty tedious, particularly in her dealings with Alan; throughout the book she slaps him and screeches at him to turn her loose because he’s a cad, she hates him, etc. etc. while inside she’s melting like hot wax and falling in love.

Alan finds this schizophrenic shrew “irresistibly adorable.” His first wife was his first cousin, though, so aside from the odd dip in the Comanche gene pool, one presumes that inbreeding is a problem in the MacAllister clan.

Bizarre improbabilities abound. The MacAllisters have “a special, written provision under Texas state law that approves the legality of the MacAllisters’ private code and practices.” And get this: “Elspeth’s cat, Caliban had initially been shut in the tower with her, and to alert her lover of her danger, she had ripped loose the hem of her frock and used it to tie her secret key around the cat’s neck. The tree had been so much smaller then; Caliban had had to leap down almost one-and-a-half stories to reach its top branches. But he had made it to the ground, outmaneuvered several pairs of kilted legs, and, somehow found his way to the Comanche encampment…” Get help Lassie!, er, Caliban!

Characters who initially played prominent roles – a would-be rapist, a girl pretending to be a MacAllister pretending to be a ghost, a man who isn’t a MacAllister who says he’s a wizard – simply disappear for an extended period. They are replaced with a new set of crazies, including an insane Comanche Scot with no nose, who may or may not be possessed, demanding a duel. I couldn’t keep track of the frantic spray of details, some of which seemed contradictory, but I got tired of going back and re-reading to figure it out, particularly since I didn’t enjoy it the first time. Possibly the author had the same problem.

This book reads like it was written as a joke. Now I guess the joke is on the reader.

-- Judi McKee


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