2 1/2 stars
A Pinnacle Books Bodice Ripper
Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes is a typical bodice ripper like the many that glutted the market in the 70s and early 80s. The heroine goes through so many horrific tragedies–attempted rape, starvation, war, death of loved ones, betrayal, disease, imprisonment, beatings, and whippings–that would make the average woman end up looking like a “faces-of-meth” poster.
However, no matter how battered and bruised, how emaciated, how lice-infested her hair, how filthy, and unwashed she is, there’s always a man who desires her, for she is the most beautiful woman in the world: Augusta Raleigh, she of the emerald eyes and raven curls.
On July 4, 1774, Augusta seals her fate when she meets Captain David Glenville of the British army. The story starts out promisingly, as it’s lust at first sight for the Redcoat officer and the Patriot girl. Then a harsh reality hits: the writing is terrible! Phrases are redundantly repeated, followed by contradictory thoughts in the same sentence. Sometimes conversations are summarized, other times, there’s nothing but dialogue, and you can’t tell what’s going on as scenes blend into one another.
Even so, the plot, as convoluted as it is, is interesting.
David is an unapologetic man-slut horndog. He courts Augusta but intends to love her and leave her. His first time with Augusta goes something like this:
David: Hey baby.. .I just saved you from being raped. How’s about a little thank you?
David: How’s about I rape you?
Augusta: Okey-dokey. Wait… what?
When she visits him at headquarters and finds him entertaining a woman in bed, Augusta leaves in anger. Then just paragraphs later, he’s seducing her! David’s a wonderful cad, but the couple is separated for a significant portion of this short 346-paged novel as often occurs in these books.
After a life-changing heartbreak, Augusta is off to war. She disguises herself as a boy, wraps those boobs up tight, and spends a year (years?) marching and camping with lots of men. Hmm…what could possibly go wrong with that?
She fights bravely at the Battle of Long Island, killing all Redcoats in her sights, and she saves her best friend, Tad. Young and gay, Tad–like so many men–falls in love with her. Dressed as a boy, Augusta’s powers of seduction are irresistible. All men are attracted to her: gay, straight, bisexual. This was definitely a gender-bending read, and at times Augusta flirts heavily with transgenderism:
“What will I be? What will I do? I will have destroyed myself as a woman. The gentleness and softness that men find so appealing will be gone. Yet I can never be a man. I will be neither fish nor fowl…”
Part Deborah Samson, part Scarlett O’Hara, part Mata Hari, and part Helen Reddy, Augusta, spends years searching for revenge and love. She experiences the “cruel sexual humiliation of lustful men” (at least that what the cover says) before she gets her happy ending.
Final Analysis of Divided Heart
The bodice ripper highlights include attempted rape, forced seduction, heroine dressing as a boy, whippings galore, adult man on teen male sex, oral sex, anal sex… Yup, it’s tawdry.
Is it any good? Well, it wasn’t horrible. It had its moments.
Divided Heart waffles between being a tasteless, balls-to-wall bodice ripper and a dry historical lesson of the early battles in the American Revolution.
Angelica Aimes wasn’t talented enough to pull off the history part; she should’ve stuck to what she was good at: the trashy side. Apparently, after writing bodice rippers, Aimes wrote several novelizations of The Young The Restless, which about sums it up. (I’m not knocking soaps. As a young’un, I watched them all, Y&R included, and remember plots like Lauren being buried alive by that crazy wacko and then losing her & Paul’s baby… Wow, I feel old.)
At times Divided Heart feels rushed, more like a summary of a book than a real book. Important events are glossed over, scenes transition oddly. It’s just a mess. But I can overlook bad writing if the plot’s to my liking. In this case, sort of. Despite being a horribly written book, it’s not without its sleazy charm.