Love, Cherish Me
One of the first romances I ever read was Rebecca Brandewyne’s Across a Starlit Sea. I remember thinking it was a little dramatic, but I liked it anyway. That was quite a few years ago, and while I’m not sure I would like it as much if I read it today, I’m sure it was better than the newly reissued Love, Cherish Me, which has one of the most inaccurate titles I’ve ever seen. A more appropriate one would be: “Love, Win Me in a Card Game, Save Me from Countless Rape Attempts, Cherish Me for a Couple of Pages, Separate from Me for Over a Hundred Pages, Call Me Demeaning Names, and Get Back Together with me on the Last Page.” Unfortunately, that one wouldn’t fit on a book cover.
You can tell this is old style romance when you hear the names of the hero and heroine – Wolf and Storm. Storm is an obscenely beautiful Southern Belle from New Orleans who has the bad fortune to be wagered and lost in a card game – twice. The first loss has her traveling off to Texas to meet her husband-to-be, powerful rancher Gabriel North. On the way her stagecoach is attacked by the notorious Barlow brothers, and, except for her, everyone is killed. Billy Barlow, the youngest brother, wants to keep her for his mistress, but he loses her in a card game to the mysterious gambler/bounty hunter El Lobo.
El Lobo is none other than Wolf, the hero of the book. Wolf and Storm spend the next five hundred pages outwitting rapist after rapist. I’m not sure how many there were, because I lost count after six. Wolf kills all four Barlow brothers – separately, over a very long period of time – after each of them tries to rape Storm. They also fall in love for a little while, until they have a big misunderstanding, and spend several years apart. During this time she decides Wolf has deserted her, so she marries the loathsome Gabriel North. Conveniently, Gabriel is impotent, so the marriage can never be consummated. When Wolf and Storm finally meet again they call each other horrible names like “bitch,” “whore,” and “filthy half-breed.” At the tail end they manage to come together again, but only after every other decent character in the book has been killed.
There are so many things wrong with this book that I can’t possibly list them all here. Some of the problems are rooted in the book’s length. It’s close to six hundred pages, which probably explains the need for all the repetitive near-rape scenes. You know you’re in trouble when a rape scene seems really ho-hum. In the end, the only person who succeeds in raping Storm is Wolf. Their separation also makes the book much longer. It’s detailed in full, and it’s really unnecessary.
I had problems with both main characters. Wolf is incapable of uttering a sentence without the word “baby” in it, which makes him sound like a hippy. Brandewyne, on the other hand, refers to Storm as “the girl” throughout the entire novel, even after she’s had children. The actions of both characters are consistently annoying and unbelievable. Their misunderstanding is lame, and Storm’s marriage to Gabriel is even more so. But what bothered me most was the way Storm stayed with Gabriel even when it was clear that her child was in danger. A caring parent would never do that.
I was also troubled by the way this book borrowed from Gone with the Wind – heavily. Some things could be chalked up to coincidence, such as the opening party scene in which Storm is besieged by admirers. But Storm’s mammy was a direct import, complete with ample bulk, bossy personality, and a dialect which may have worked in the 1930s but sounds racist to the 1990s ear. Several distinctive phrases or descriptions were also strikingly familiar. Storm frequently referred to herself as “the Belle of five counties” – one-upping Scarlett O’Hara who was only the Belle of three. And actually, since Storm was from Louisiana, she should have been the belle of five parishes. The author also mentioned that Storm’s back never touched the back of a chair, and her father only once whipped a slave for abusing a horse. These were attributes of Scarlett’s mother and father. And it didn’t end there. One or two of these might have escaped notice, but so many similarities, all from a very well-known source, were very troublesome.
I had one final nit-pick. The book as a whole was very detailed historically, and mostly well-researched. But Gabriel twice referred to his home as an antebellum mansion – in 1848, thirteen years before the Civil War. This book was originally published fifteen years ago, and it’s hard to believe that in all that time no one has mentioned this major gaffe to the author.
If you long for the old days, when longer epic romances were the rule, and heroes and heroines fought it out until the bitter end, then you might like this one. Otherwise, I suggest you avoid it like the plague. Love, Cherish Me includes every negative romance cliche out there.