Dear HRH Thermopolis*:
I just finished reading your debut novel, Ransom My Heart. It’s a good novel but flawed, but what can you expect from your debut novel that you wrote while your heart was breaking over the loss of your boyfriend Michael when he went off to Japan to court the Asian honeys. I’ve read many of your journals in the past, although not all of them, but I did pick up the conclusion of your personal story which brought Michael back into your life.
The story of Ransom My Heart has a more loutish hero that I would have expected from a Mia story so ultimately I wasn’t quite sure whether your creator, Meg Cabot, was channeling you while writing (which explained some of the over the top quirks to the heroine) or whether it was just Meg Cabot’s voice and you were a marketing ploy. It could be both, I suppose.
Ransom My Heart is a medieval, designed to appeal to those readers who started with Meg Cabot and the Princess series back in 2002. (The promotional materials suggested that the readers "graduate" to the Ransom My Heart book). By now, those readers are fully of age, most have lost their virginity, and are ready for the full on smexxing that a regular romance novel provides. On the whole, though, the sex scenes are pretty tame, not totally closed door, but nothing terribly explicit.
Finnula is a miller’s daughter, one of six, whose sister found herself pregnant and spent all her dowry money on fripperies so she can’t get a quickie husband like she needs. Apparently, the thing for maidens to do is kidnap a young man and then ransom him back to his family. It sounds so incredible that it must be true. So Finnula sets out to kidnap a man for her sister. She spies a knight recently back from the crusades flashing his coin around in the next village over. Deciding that this knight is the perfect prey, Finnula manages to catch him unawares and capture him.
Hugo Fitzstephen, the new Earl, can’t really believe his good fortune. He’s just recently come back from the Crusades and is delighted to be on his own land where he bagged his first stag, the spring where he had learned to swim, the copse were he had laid with Fat Maude before he fled for the Crusades. Now he is being held captive by a gorgeous sprite of a girl. Hugo knows he can easily extricate himself but finds being captive quite entertaining. After all, the women that preceded Finnula wanted to be chatelaine of Stephensgate Manor but pretended they wanted him while Finnula just badly stated that all she wanted was some of his money.
This is one part a road romance and one part a who is trying to kill Hugo and place the blame on Finnula romance. It has a lighthearted tone and several laugh out loud moments (or at least points in which I giggled quite a bit). It’s flawed, though, as Finnula is portrayed as someone who is not only gorgeous, the best archer in the area, so good to others it makes your teeth ache, and she wants to wear in braes and not dresses, i.e., the stereotypical romance heroine who is just a bit too perfect.
Finnula’s perfectness, though, is offset by Hugo’s loutishness. While Hugo is good to his horse, he basically wants to eat, drink, and tup Finnula. He’s very rude to his squire, constantly humiliating him for no good reason. He’s not a sharp thinker, reaching for the sword before anything else. I didn’t get the sense that Hugo would have been a good leader given that his first inclination is always toward running someone through with his blade or placing people in chokeholds. I kind of appreciated the imperfection of Hugo as a traditional romance hero.
I was taken aback by the physical descriptions. Finnula apparently comes up to Hugo’s elbow and it took me several chapters to kind of wipe away that physical comparison. In some ways, I felt that Finnula was pretty childish in both stature and in demeanor.
Parts of the story are very farcical but I thought it was done intentionally so I kind of gave it a pass. The whodunit wasn’t really any mystery at all and the end, with the villain giving his goodbye speech seemed quite ridiculous. Again, whether that was intentional or just trite is up to the reader’s point of view. Overall, I’d give this effort a B-. I’ll miss your personal journals since it appears with Volume X: Forever Princess that those are complete. Please do continue writing historicals, though. We need more medievals in the genre.
This book can be purchased on January 6, 2009, in trade paperback from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other retailers.
* Mia Thermopolis is the narrator of the Princess Diaries, a series penned by author Meg Cabot.