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Jade Princess by Clarissa Ross
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I posted a review for Twilight Web by W.E.D. Ross recently. As many Gothic readers may know, William Edward Daniel Ross wrote under many pseudonyms and Clarissa Ross was one of them. His most famous one was Marilyn Ross due to the Dark Shadows books. Seeing that he was a prolific writer, it may be needless to say that many of his books sound as if they were written in a hurry. I chose to read this one because it was a longer book and I felt that he may have given himself some time "to get it right". Did he? Well, ....

First off, the story takes place in Hong Kong in the 1970s. I am not a big fan of Gothics taking place in the Orient. That is just me. Nevertheless, I wanted to give it a try. I do not know if anything written was accurate about the state of affairs in Hong Kong and Macau at the time of this writing, so I will not comment on that.

Synopsis (even the synopsis in the book was erroneous regarding the characters): Enid is asked to come to Hong Kong by her brother-in-law when he notified her that her sister Madge is dead. She goes in an attempt to find out how and why her sister died. The household consists of Edmund (the patriarch), his daughter-in-law Eleanor, his grandson Stephen (Madge's husband), his adopted granddaughter Sonya Chen, and his nephew's son Christopher. Then there is his neighbor and longtime business partner Wong Lee. On the plane, Enid befriends Charles, who is a friend of Christopher's. As a background, Edmund had married a half-Chinese woman, Regina, whose ghost is said to haunt the place. She had died in mysterious circumstances and now Madge has met the same fate. In trying to discover what happens, Enid runs into a lot of trouble.

I have to say that the longer novel did allow him to slow things down a bit. However, I wondered if he got bored or if his attention span was too short because there were so many inconsistencies and repeated dialogues. Also, he kept repeating the same descriptions. His characters were very two dimensional. All the men were tall, handsome and young. They only differed in hair color. All the women were incredibly beautiful or horrifically ugly.

The inconsistencies frustrated me the most. There was the minor inconsistency when he kept describing the two dragons flanking the front entrance, then midway thru the story, they became lions, then turned back into dragons. But a bigger one was when our Enid arrives in Hong Kong and is met by Wong Lee, Charles comes up and talks to Wong as if they have known each other before. Yet, later in the story, Wong tells Enid that Madge and Christopher had argued about a Charles "somebody", as if he did not recognize the name. Then, near the end of the story, Wong sees Enid with Charles and asks her if that is the same Charles. Did he not remember talking to him a week ago as if he was an old friend?

I also did not like how people behaved in inexplicable ways. Having accused them of being two-dimensional, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. As an example, Enid finds Madge's diary. She opens it and sees an entry on such a date and reads a couple of lines. Then it was blank for several days, then another entry which holds her interest (even though it was only a few lines). She turns the page and reads a short entry. She skims the rest of the book but it was empty. She decides to take it. After having separate meetings with Stephen, Charles and Christopher, she tells them that she read Madge's diary and she suspected Madge of having an affair with Christopher. Really? Did you read what was written? And from that you deduced there was an affair? And you are going to tell the bereaved widower? Then the diary is stolen and Enid is angry because she had not finished reading it. Didn't you say that she skimmed it and the other pages were blank? The diary is returned with the written pages torn out.

How about: Having been nearly kidnapped a second time, Enid is so frightened and everyone around her is so concerned that Wong (an octogenarian) thinks nothing of taking her out in public, advertising where she is. So, guess what? You got it, she gets kidnapped.

Ross is also a big fan of love at first sight. Christopher tells her he is in love the first night of her arrival. Stephen tells her a couple of days later. And Charles tells her some time after that but his statement was "I already told you I was in love with you". Really? When? Did I miss that?

One scene I found amusing was when Enid was choked nearly to death, she falls to the ground and as she recovers consciousness, she hears Sonya crying "You must listen to me". She manages to say "what" and Sonya says "You are not dead". I've taken BLS classes and you usually don't shake the unresponsive person saying, "you must listen to me".

Another complaint about inconsistencies has to do with timing. There were references to WWII. As we all know, WWII ended in 1945, so this story, written in 1977, with references to some events taking place in the 1970s, means that the war had to have ended 30 years previously. So, how do you account for Stephen having been a boy in England while his grandfather was in Hong Kong, imprisoned by the Japanese? He was supposed to be close to Sonya's age and she was quoted as being 26. For that matter, Madge, who is Enid's older half-sister, acted as second mother to Enid when her mother died when Enid was 15. And Enid was 24 in the story. So, how old was Madge? Enid also speculated on Wong's car, saying it was at least 20 years old, having been bought shortly after the war. Don't you mean around 30 years old?

There were moments when I felt the book held some promise but too many little errors made it impossible for me to give it a good grade. Having read two of his books, I noticed a lack of a strong presence of any one character except the heroine. It was obvious who the hero was going to be even if the author did not portray the hero well. In this particular book, I felt that the explanation for the hero was too pat, especially given how he was presented earlier in the story by the police. Unlike Gothics that are well done, the villain of the piece is always so obviously presented. There is none of the "oh, he was just misunderstood".
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