Time for another review with the focus: funny or not?
HISTORICAL ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Brilliant linguist teams up with disgraced aristocrat to rescue abducted brother among pyramids.
Just about everything. Daphne starts out with a triple handicap including her status as highly sheltered young woman, scholar who must use her brother as a front and feign constant ignorance due to lack of acceptance of female academic expertise, and with low self-esteem due to being systematically undermined by her late, much older husband. Her re-education starts with a bang almost from page 1, when her brother is kidnapped and she must not only figure out how to negotiate the foreign world of Egypt and the stifling world of British societal structures on her own but set out in her brother's pursuit while staying a step ahead of antiquities thieves, unwelcome admirers, poisonous snakes...
Such a unique and appealling heroine needs an equally unique hero. Sent to Egypt as a last resort by a father who effortlessly directs decisionmaking of the British nation but is at wit's end about what to do with his hellion son, we first meet Rupert as he observes Egyptian soldiers tormenting a defenceless local citizen. Rupert's assessment of the unsportsmanlike odds is enough to merrily fling himself into the melee, leading to a spell in chains in a dungeon. It is here that the two encounter one another, in what is arguably one of the funniest and unique first meetings between characters destined to be a couple.
"...’That man is an idiot.’
'Yes, madam, but he’s all we’ve got’ said Beechey.
‘I may be stupid,’ Rupert said, ‘but I’m irresistibly attractive.’
‘Good grief, conceited too’ she muttered.
‘And being a great, dumb ox’ he went on, ‘I’m wonderfully easy to manage.’
‘He’s cheerful, madam’ Beechey said, ‘Is it not remarkable how he’s kept up his spirits in this vile place?’
Obligingly, Rupert began to whistle.
‘Obviously he doesn’t know any better,’ she said."
The gradual flowering of Daphne and Rupert's relationship in the quiet moments between desert jaunts, target practice, donkey communication, Daphne teaching Rupert Arabic, assasination attempts, pyramid secret tunnels etc. etc. is a joy to behold. Rupert treats Daphne as a person of intelligence as well as a desirable woman, ultmately leading to her acceptance that she is not unnatural. Daphne expects Rupert to be sensitive to and respectful of the people and culture around him, leading Rupert (who due to size and propensity to 'break heads', has always been labelled the dumb ox he describes himself) to exercise his insight, consideration, and leadership qualities. From the moment they meet, there is never any question they'll end up together; how they get to their happily-ever-after through a maze of whizzing bullets, hieroglyphs and rope ladders is a huge amount of fun.
The lurid cover.
Apprentice Writer would never have thought that Egypt could be as appealling as in Elizabeth Peters' wonderful "Peabody" series. But Daphne and Rupert are neck and neck with Amelia and Emerson in charm, smarts, chemistry, and derring-do.
She will admit to being a little worried about how the British/Egyptian interaction would be handled, partly (as regular Gentle Readers know) because Apprentice Writer is somewhat sensitive about this issue in general, partly because of wording in a previous work by this author. Lord of Scoundrels is rightfully considered by many a masterpiece of this genre. Apprentice Writer enjoyed the humorous interactions between hero and heroine very much (the way the shooting incident plays out is peerless), but due to emotional neglect/abuse during his childhood, the hero experiences frequent doubts about his worthiness, including a feeling he shouldn't lay his "...blackamoor hands" on his wife's fair skin (he is of English/Italian descent). The components making up the hero's distorted self-image and how these are brought into healing reallignment are complex and should in fairness not be reduced to this one phrase; but even so, having the hero link his feeling of unworthiness with darker skintone tore this reader unhappily out of the story.
To Apprentice Writer's relief, there were no such jarring word choices in 'Mr. Impossible'. There was a moment when it seemed matters might be skating close to the edge of paternalistic views, in a scene where Rupert declares to a bemused Daphne that he needs to take certain actions in regard to two servants because he is '...the father'. But the Egyptians in question are in fact minors, and for Rupert to take action on their behalf in the absence of parents of their own is a positive thing. Other characters the hero and heroine encounter all seem to be judged by their own merits and flaws rather than sweeping generalizations.
BUT DOES IT MAKE YOU LAUGH? YES!
"Mr. Impossible" actually contains more dramatic than comedic moments, but the quality of the funny bits is so good that they stuck in this reader's mind long after the book was closed. This story has a place of honor on Apprentic Writer's Keeper Shelf.
It also raises high hopes for the author's most recent release,
Your Scandolous Ways,
on shelves now. Apprentice Writer is one chapter in, and so far, the buzz of '1800's James Bond in Venice' is justified and delicious.
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