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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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12/23/2005 Archived Entry: "Book review: Love and Honor"

Love and Honor
By Randall Wallace
Wheelhouse Books

Review by Chad Denton

Because he cannot find a way to adequately and concisely describe his feelings on the book, "Love and Honor," through a traditional review, the author of this review, Chad Denton, will instead record an imaginary conversation with a friend (with bits of real conversations thrown in):

"Hey, Chad, why are you reading a book by Randall Wallace? I thought you hated 'Braveheart'"?

"Well, I hated the movie. I never read the book and after reading this I never will. But, still, it might be much better than this book., unless it keeps that cheesy and idiotic plot twist about William Wallace being Edward III's real father. Oh, and the homophobia..."

"Right, right. By now we all know your "Braveheart" rant by heart. So what's 'Love And Honor' about?"

"Oh, Benjamin Franklin wants to keep Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia from supporting George III's suppression of the American Revolution, so he sends a young, idealist Virginian soldier, Kieran, to convince Catherine not to declare war on the colonists."

"Wouldn't Franklin do it himself?"

"Well, that kind of came up in the book. Franklin convinces Kieran that he's sending him because he took French and German and was a good orator in college."

"...What?"

"I know, I know. Anyway, the real reason is because Franklin thinks Kieran will become Catherine's lover."

"Well, that doesn't sound so bad, as long as it's handled tongue-in-cheek..."

"It wasn't. And to prove himself, Kieran fights the Cossack rebellion led by Pugachev. And has to deal with a plot by a British ambassador to stop him. Somehow this all filled 434 pages."

"So you didn't like it?"

"Well, the writing is well-handled and even engaging in some spots. But the characterization is just too hollow and it seems every character comes out of three or four templates, the dialogue sounds like something out of a generic Hollywood movie, and there's so, so much padding..."

"I'm afraid to ask about the history..."

"Oh, but I'm glad you brought that up. I know I'm not a professional historian, not yet anyway, but there were important details he could have easily gotten right without having any effect on the story. When in one chapter Catherine describes her past, she claims the husband she overthrew, Tsar Peter III, was the son of the Tsarina Elizabeth, when in actuality he was her nephew. And Wallace then writes that one month after Catherine married Peter III, Elizabeth had him strangled! I don't even know where to begin in telling you how that's wrong. I mean, I understand that in historical adaptations there has to be some adjustments for the sake of dramatic license and for making the plot manageable and accessible, but there is no reason for Wallace to flub these small but crucial facts unless he's lazy, inept at research, or just doesn't really give half a damn about the history. And there's probably dozens of more unnecessary mistakes I just missed. If you're going to ignore the history, then you really just ought to write something that's entirely fictional. It's not like the actual history isn't entertaining enough or that Wallace doesn't have the money for at least one research assistant..."

"Right, right. But, hey, the critics seemed to like it."

"Oh, it's definitely written like something made to be the 'inspiration' for a great, mundane blockbuster. It hits all the notes in that respect. There's even a classic Hollywood ending that's only missing all the characters standing around and laughing."

"I wonder what Catherine the Great would have made of it..."

"Well, it depicts her as more of a tyrant than she probably was in real life. Wallace even has her starve a minister to death! And the protagonist is almost literally raped by her when they finally meet in private! Because, you know, a powerful woman that enjoys sex would certainly have to be a nymphomaniac. So, yeah, her reaction probably wouldn't have been healthy."

"Let me guess, when Catherine sexually harasses Kieran, he overpowers her, yells at her manfully and patriotically, and in the end she agrees to his request because she's impressed by his righteous, American manliness?"

"More or less. But now that I've told you all this... do you want to buy a book from me for just two dollars and fifty cents?"

"...No."

"But surely the advice to never read anything by Randall Wallace, especially if you actually care about history, has to be worth something, right?"

"Hmm, I'll go get you a beer."

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