In preparing for my trip to Mexico, I stockpiled a bunch of trashy lesbian novels to take with me. One of the first was The Spanish Pearl by Catherine Friend.
The premise was simple – modern lesbian is transported back in time to 11th century Spain where she falls in love with a man who has a secret. The “secret” was not only obvious – it was stated plainly on the back of the book and in the description on Amazon. The “man” Kate falls in love with is really…gasp! shock!…a woman.
Okay, so I bought the book knowing this and thinking, cool, that would be the first few chapters and then there’d be a story. It was apparent about fifteen seconds after they met that “he” was a she, so I kept waiting for the rest of the story. Only, no, that WAS the story. The whole story. That was it. There was some violence (not enough) and some rape (plenty, thanks) and some internal and external medieval politics (about the right amount) but the main point was Kate figuring out slowly, painfully and awkwardly what any reader knew going into the book.
But you know, that wasn’t really that bad – just sort of “buh?” What was bad was Kate’s insistence on relating to the people around her in 21st century American terms. For instance, in one scene, she berates Louis for killing two men – two men who would have raped Kate, mind you. I would have been kissing Louis and kicking the corpses, but not Kate. She was furious that Louis stooped to violence instead of what – talking their way out of it? If this was day one in the story, I might have accepted it, but it was well into the story. And the reason they were in that situation was also Kate’s fault in the first place after several really bad decisions.
What was also sort of strange was Kate’s obsession about a child she met for less than an hour and her use of that child as an excuse to return to the future. And last, what tanked the book utterly for me was that there’s a sequel. The miserable girlfriend from the future comes back to the past to “rescue” Kate. Thanks. I’ll pass.
For fun, I often read Amazon reviews after I finish a book. To my shock everyone loved this book – they thought it funny and lyrical and a love letter to Spain. No one wrote, “I thought Kate was an ass.” Perhaps I should write a review there, because I totally did think that. ^_^;
On the positive side, Catherine Friend writes well. I don’t think I flinched at any portion of the book (as I did several times during my attempt to read another lesbian novel recently – whole sentences had me cringing. I gave up after the first chapter.) So for that alone, The Spanish Pearl is above average.
Story – 5
Characters – 5
Yuri – 9
Service – not on a bet, but the rape would suffice I imagine – 2
Overall – 5
If you aren’t looking for plot so much as a series of crises set around a relationship, it’s not really that bad a book. And with a blue ocean eating white sand, while you drink a brightly colored drink, you could definitely do worse. But you can also do better.