Saturday, February 25, 2023

Hills of Kalamata by Anne Hampson


Ridiculous! Insane! Purely sensational! These are just some of the words that came to mind while reading HILLS OF KALAMATA. This is one of those old school Harlequin Presents novels people love to make fun of and laugh at. The heroines are usually insipid and weepy and the heroes are usually forceful and shouty, and because both of them are also conventionally attractive, they always end up getting married at the end.

Sarah has a friend named Miranda. Miranda has a plan: this Greek guy named Charon Drakos is seeing her sister, Pam. But it's clear he has no plans on marrying her and is just taking Pam for a figurative and literal ride. Miranda's plan to deal with the situation? Kidnapping. Dump Charon on an abandoned Greek island somewhere with some food or water, thus giving Pam time to get over him, Yeah, that seems reasonable. Sarah, naturally, gives voice to her concerns about this plan, but Miranda and her mother are both convinced this is the only option.

So they drug him with some wine Miranda's mom made that puts everyone who drinks it to sleep because of some herb it has in it (which is never named-- what is it, pot??). But Charon, suspecting something, doesn't actually drink the wine. He locks Sarah up and takes Miranda away, only to inform Sarah that she is now his captive and he's going to have fun with her until he gets bored. When she threatens him with murder, this excites him and he's like hahaha maybe I'll marry you.

It turns out that Charon is a Maniot, from an actual region of Greece called the Peninsula of Mani (called "Deep Mani" in this book). According to the Wikipedia page, they claim to be descendants of the Spartans. In this book, they're portrayed as vendetta-crazy barbarians who treat murder and torture like it's a national sport. And just by the color of the heroine's tilted midnight blue eyes, Charon determines that she's a descendant of the family that his family loves to hate. When he takes her to his home, his grandmother is there, and Sarah asks granny if she has any qualms about her grandson being a kidnapper. The grandmother basically shrug-emojis and is like, "I'm Greek, we're all criminals, what can you do?" (RACISM!) Then she compliments her grandson on his excellent taste in reverse-kidnapping victims (not kidding). She changes her tune when she finds out that Sarah is a descendant of the family she hates though; then she starts begging her grandson to let her have Sarah, so she can disfigure and torture her, keeping her alive in agony before dispensing her forever.

Charon insists that he wants to fuck Sarah before killing her and she is taken back to his rooms. Also, he marries her so his family can't kill her anymore because now she's part of their family and something about honor, I don't know. At this point, I was only half paying attention to the book. Sarah is attracted and repulsed to him in equal measure and eventually Charon rapes her (it's fade to black, one paragraph ends with him threatening her and the next has her waking up in bed with him). A jealous OW helps Sarah escape but then she MISSES him and decides that he must have loved her her whole time, so after telling Miranda how stupid her plan was a final time, she goes back to the island of Hydra and lives happily ever after with Mr. Drakos.

The end.

So this book was stupid, I'm not going to beat around the bushes about it. It's un-PC and offensive to Greek people and also to the Romani people because it throws that G-slur around like a man at the strip club waving $1 bills. Granted, it was the 70s, so it's not like it's modern or even unrealistic for the times (probably, I don't know, I wasn't alive), but as a modern reader, it can probably be shocking. Equally shocking and offensive is how the hero laughs at the idea of a man being "ravished." He thinks it's impossible and laughs at the very idea. But he also thought women kidnapping a man was impossible, and only his deep-ingrained suspicion of basically everyone prevented that, so you'd think this dude can understand that having two X-chromosomes isn't the genetic equivalent of having a crime prevention unit implanted in your brain.

Crazy granny had potential and so did jealous OW, but the author never really went THERE with that drama. I also felt bitterly disappointed by the heroine's 180 from reluctantly agreeing to kidnap the motherfucker to complete spineless capitulation. But sometimes there can be joy in reading something stupid, and I did kind of enjoy this book, even if have the joy came from laughing at it. It seems like this book, which is one of the first 200 Harlequins ever published and written by a fairly big name author, is actually worth a pretty decent sum of money, so I may end up selling this one to a collector.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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