This week's winner comes to us from the great HarperCollin's imprint, Avon, a publisher so bold as to declare "We know what women want."
After mastering "what women want," Avon decided to move on to what young women want. And what these kids want is knowledge - kids want to learn about the past, but they want to do it in a fun way! They want to read historical fiction, but they want romance! They want adventure! They want shallow, perfunctory research and broadly-drawn caricatures! And thus, the Avon True Romance series was born.
A quick Wikipedia search reveals that this series contains twelve books, all written by popular authors (this explains why Meg Cabot, whom I usually adore, wrote the dreadful Nicola and the Viscount and Victoria and the Rogue). A few books in the series were returned all at once this week, so I was able to pick my favorite: Miranda and the Warrior.
First Glance: Adorable. ADORABLE! See the way she looks at him with complete twitterpated-ness? And how he returns her gaze austerely, standing beside her with manly confidence? And they are in the mountains, perhaps in uncharted territory! Adventure! Yet her adorable yellow dress remains stain and wrinkle-free! Symbolism! It's like they captured the purity and truth of a girl's first love, set it in frontier times, and put it on a book cover! Score: 4 out of 5
Title: This is hard, because obviously the title needed to conform to the Avon True Romance house style: "Girl and the Man with Historical Occupation." (Beside the aforementioned Meg Cabot titles, we have Amelia and the Outlaw, Catherine and the Pirate, and my personal favorite, Tess and the Highlander. You know I love anything involving highlanders.) It's hard to fault the author for giving the book such a boring, pun-free name.
Yet, Miranda and the Warrior doesn't work for another reason: Miranda isn't a believable frontier name. With the entire tome of Little House on the Prairie available, you'd think the author could skim through and find a better first name. Something like Nellie or Ida or I don't know, Mary? Score: 2 out of 5
Back-of-the-Book: Miranda is the only child of a U.S. Cavalry major, making her a prime bargaining tool when the Cheyenne warrior Shadow Walker kidnaps her. Evidently, Shadow Walker believed he'd captured a girl, "but he comes to realize that she is not just a girl, but a headstrong woman" (I believe the correct terminology is 'not a girl, not yet a woman'). Miranda, naturally, "defies him at every turn," yet inexplicably, "captive and captor grow closer and soon uncover feelings they had thought impossible" (Stockholm Syndrome?). We are left with but one question: "Would they risk everything they once held dear - for each other?" I think we all know the answer to that question. Score: 3.5 out of 5
Extra credit: While I can't offer credit for the name Miranda, I can provide a few bonus points for Shadow Walker. Score: +3
Final Score: 10.5 out of 15 - That gets the Silver Dodd, for excellence in adorably chaste cover art and competence in back-of-the-book final question asking. Congratulations to Miranda and her warrior, Shadow Walker.