It was a bad sign that Bertrice Small’s The Innocent features one of her dullest covers ever. The lone positive was that it was designed as one last covers created by legendary artist Elaine Duillo, for her dear friend Bertrice.
Taking a break from Small’s usual romances where the heroine is captured by some salacious sultan and enslaved in his harem, The Innocent is a rather ho-hum medieval. The heroine is a former nun named Eleonore, who goes by the ridiculous name Elf. Elf is a paragon of virtue, saintliness, and sweetness and is totally dull. She is made to marry Ranulf, an equally boring character who patiently introduces Elf into the arts of love.
There’s an evil villain, a hired killer, who falls in love with Elf for her purity and goodness, but all I could wonder was WHY? She, like most Small heroines, is perfect beyond belief.
Ok, I lied when I said the reason behind the cover was the sole positive aspect of this book. The villainess, Isleen, is such a caricature of slutty evilness, she’s hysterical. She hates Elf and is her total opposite: a cruel, bitchy who-ore who will stop at nothing to have Elf killed. There’s a funny (to me, anyway) scene where the villainess gets gang-banged by the villain and a couple of other guys, then stops after a few rounds and says, “Oh wait we have to practice safe medieval sex so I don’t get preggers,” and proceeds to douche with a full wine bottle.
I read a ton of Bertrice small books circa 1999 to 2002, and at the time I found myself addicted to them. But being addicted to and loving something aren’t the same thing.
I picked this one up figuring it would be a change of pace from Small’s usual sexcapades when the heroine (and hero) romp around with everyone and everything in sight. Elf is a virgin and sleeps only with the hero (boring for a ripper, although I wouldn’t classify this as a ‘ripper, just erotic romance). Yet other than a couple of scenes and an interesting villain who would have made a better hero (he surprisingly redeems himself in the end), this one was a real snoozer.
Recommended only for hardcore Bertrice Small fans who just want to read some naughty sex scenes.