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Dangerous Liaison, A – Review

by: Borchgrave, Baroness Sheri de

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd.

Copyright: 1993

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 4/5/1995

Summary: Mmmm. Right. There must be something else.

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 4 – April 1995 – Copyright 1995.

And the china was “splendidly opulent” and exquisite. Mmmm. Right.

Sheri Heller, the Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave, relates the story of her marriage into the aristocratic families of Belgium. His name was Jacques–the husband, not the families. She met Jacques on a plane while on her way back to New York.

Soon after that meeting, she received a letter from Jacques asking her to join him for a two or three week vacation in St. Tropez. He had arranged for separate rooms of course. Of course. And the china was “splendidly opulent” and exquisite.

On the ride in his speedy white BMW 520 from the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, Sheri felt an overwhelming attraction for Jacques. As Jacques, his eyes flashing on her with sensuous warmth, rambled on about the beauty of St. Tropez’s semi-nude beaches filled with chic women and tarte au pomme, Sheri knew this would be a vacation she would remember for the rest of her life. No, wait. The St. Tropez beaches were not filled with tarte au pomme. Tarte au pomme is the hot apple tart served at St. Tropez. And the china was “splendidly opulent” and exquisite.

These romantic vacations of clothes, food, wine, beach, sun and sex continued for a year, two years, three years. What’s time when you’re talking about love. In any event, Jacques finally asked Sheri to marry him. But he also had a strange, eerie request. No, not that one, the other one. He wanted her to have breast surgery to have her breast enlarged. A whimsy, Sheri thought. He would get over it. Meantime, she said yes.

During their engagement, as she tidied up her life in New York preparing to move to Belgium and become Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave, she had second thoughts. Jacques was awaiting a divorce from his first wife. He had also hinted at a hushed-up family scandal in which a young servant woman had died and he was implicated in some way. Farther talks with her mother and prompting from Jacques lead her to go ahead with the marriage. After all, what are divorces for anyway and the china was “splendidly opulent” and exquisite.

Sheri met Jacques’s family of royalty and eventually discovered the secrets: the mother was cold and distant; an aunt seemed anxious to share all the family secrets; Jacques’s married and divorced sister who apparently had an ongoing sexual relationship with one of Jacques’s uncles. This sister also had a less frequent sexual relationship with Jacques. And the china was “splendidly opulent” and exquisite.

Well, to make 332 pages less breathless, the marriage didn’t go well. That breast surgery thing kept popping-up. Jacques would have these weird mood swings (a second personality) in which he would accuse Sheri of not keeping her promise. There was also the little matter of a dowry. Jacques’s mother assumed Sheri would be bringing money into the marriage to help with the expenses–about $10,000 a month just to run the Baron Jacques’ household. Jacques picked-up the dowry issues and quietly hurled it in Sheri’s face each time he had a mood swing. During one of his mood swings, Sheri heard him run upstairs. Jacques never ran anywhere. She assumed he was going for his gun. She ran for the door, her car and safety. From a bar, she called Jacques who agreed to let her return to get her passport and clothes. When she returned, he was standing near the fire-place, tossing all the clothes he had brought for her to the god Vulcan. Sheri eventually filed for divorce.

The divorce was never finalized. Jacques died in 1989. Though the divorce was preceding through the Belgium courts, Sheri was still Jacques’s wife when he died so she inherited everything including the title. And the china was “splendidly opulent” and exquisite. Right.




Fatima Prophecy – Review

by: Stanford, Ray

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Copyright: 1987

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 4/5/1995

Summary: Highly recommended.

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 4 – April 1995 – Copyright 1995.

There are very few books this reviewer reads which evokes the utterance, “amazing!”. Marveling at the beauty of language in RED AZALEA by Anchee Min or the universal ideas in WHEN HEAVEN AND EARTH CHANGED PLACES by Le Ly Hayslip or the relevant folk wisdom of Sarah and Elizabeth Delany in HAVING OUR SAY–marvel at voices in which craft and subject have joined to produce unique expression. But “amazing” goes beyond unique expression. In fact, “amazing” plummets to the depths of commonality–the voice, the message, the craft.

FATIMA PROPHECY lures the reader with the promise that it will reveal the content of a prophecy supposedly delivered to three children in Fatima, Portugal in 1916 by the Virgin Mary who appeared to them in a vision. The prophecy was to be told to the world by the Vatican in 1960–as instructed by the vision. But 1960 came and went and the Vatican has kept the prophecy a secret–maybe.

Retelling the events of Fatima,the author goes on to relate other apparitions by the Virgin Mary: Beauraing, Belgium in 1932 and 1933, San Sebastian de Garabanda, Spain in 1961, and the most intriguing of all, Zeitoun, Egypt in 1968. There are photographs of the Zeitoun apparition. In part two of the book, Stanford begins an explanation of the Marian apparitions.

The telling mark of New Age material is its arrogant concern with “the world”. New Age marterial is simply old-age thought in a different package. It is the packaging that sells of course.

FATIMA PROPHECY is billed as New Age. It is not. Not in any sense of the hype. First, the gist of its message was composed in 1971 and 1972 from “trance-readings” when the tag New Age was neither popular nor a genre. Secondly, the message is not about what “they” are doing to destroy the world, it is about what “I” am doing. And the message is a simple one: love thy neighbor. Yes, even the jerk who parked a truck of explosives in front of the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Love thy neighbor.

Stanford allows his trance-readings to get the message across. It is not easy material to digest. For the 1988 edition, he added his own comments, consisting primarily of apologetic excuses for some of what is contained in the readings. The apology marterial is superfluous.

The readings explain the difference between the Marian apparitions and ghosts or disembodied spirits. Everything here must be taken on faith. You either believe or not. For those reared in the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there is a beautiful symmetry to the idea of a love transcending both life and death and the difference people think that there are among themselves. That love expresses itself in such manifestations as the Marian visions.

The readings also attempt to explain why the Marian apparitions took place and, according to the readings, will continue to take place. While prophecy, the foretelling of future events of significance to all peoples, is part of the Marian apparitions, it is not the core ingredient. It is here that the Fatima Prophecy is at its best, continuing to weave a symmetry of beauty and logic. Why am I concerned about what will happen in the future? What possible benefit do I hope to achieve from such knowledge? Bottom line: I am going to die within a hundred years at most. What earthly concerns will I have after a hundred years? For those piqued at the Catholic Church for withholding the final prophecy of Fatima, the trance-readings asks why anyone would expect the Church to behave any differently than any other human institution, especially if the prophecy had something demeaning to say about the role of the Church in human affairs.

By the time the trance-readings get around to discussing the secreted final Fatima prophecy, you are fairly well convinced that it is not the prophecy itself that is significant. Rather, it is the fact that the prophecy was delivered. In the language of the trance readings, it is the love of God for humanity that allows the Marian apparitions to happen, providing those who are capable of understanding to understand the importance of love and compassion in human affairs.

The 1916 apparition at Fatima marked the beginning of the bloodiest century in recorded history. Even now in Eastern Europe, Africa and South America, “ethnic cleansing” campaigns are taking place. Though the message has been delivered, few seem to have heard. There will, according to the Stanford readings, be a price for this lack of attention. It is a price that will be paid not because of what “they” are doing over there, but because of what I am doing–what is in my heart, my prayers.

Fatima Prophecy delivers a powerful message. The prophecy delivered at Fatima in 1916 however is of only secondary significance. Supposedly, the prophecy talks of the end of the reign of Popes toward the end of the century. More significant than the end of Popes in Rome is the reason that end is to come about.

If you don’t like New Age marterial, be assured that Fatima Prophecy is not. Read it.




Dying to Get Married – Review

by: Harris, Ellen

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright: 1991

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 4/5/1995

Summary: Good use of language, word play. A fantasy about marriage leads to an untimely death.

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 4 – April 1995 – Copyright 1995.

Julia (“Julie”) Miller was a thirty year old, successful, mid-level executive type from a relatively well to do family who wanted to get married. In 1985 she placed a singles advertisement in a local St. Louis newspaper that read in part:

Are you a “Really Nice Guy?” If yes, this “Nice Girl” wants you to read on. I’m single, white and female, 30 years, 5’2″, 125 lbs, whose appearance is pleasing to the eyes. My 9-5 life is professional. Other time is combination creative and suburban homebody. I’ve realized life without a boyfriend isn’t all that much fun . . .

Months later, in August 1985, Dennis Neal Bulloch answered her ad. He was “movie star” handsome, had a M. B. A. degree, worked in a major stock brokerage house, was a member of the Young Republicans and Friends of the Art Museum and the Zoo, belonged to the Classical Guitar Society and was getting a divorce from his current wife with whom he had not had children. Sounds like a match made in the heavens?

Brings to mind an old saw about being careful about what you want most in life–you may just get it.

There are a number of problems with DYING TO GET MARRIED, including a problem with what Harris dose not reveal about Julie Miller Bulloch. But the reader does get a sense or feel for this seeker of true romance. She is as her ad stated. What is not stated is the insecurity, the fear, the isolation. This side of Julie the author reveals in fits and starts. There are enough spruced-up bromides here to be of interest to any un-married person seeking to get married.

About a month after Julie marries her prince charming, she writes a friend, “What’s in a name change? Sharing and trust . . . Am I too scared to trust? Yes–when I’m not accepted for what I am.”

It is an insightful observation. But it is the type of observation one should make before getting married, not after. For Julie Miller, the insight came much too late in any event. Concerned that she had married for the wrong reasons, she attempted to distance herself from the looming disaster. It comes across in the diary excerpts that Harris provides as well as quotes from Julie’s audiotapes. But why did Julie marry Dennis Bulloch in the first place?

Standing back and being “objective”, we can see an intelligent young woman whose first twenty-five years of life seemed to have been spent attempting to please her parents, attempting to keep everything in its proper place, attempting to “go by the rules”, attempting even to structure reality to her liking. Harris writes, “Julie was not looking for a soul mate. All she fantasized about was the All-American Dream as espoused by the girls’ and women’s magazines of the era: a nice husband, nice children, nice house, and, maybe, a nice job”. After both parents die following long illnesses, Julie is left to pursue her fantasy.

It is obvious that Julie was starved for the simplest display of affection, not necessarily love. In the void, her fantasy took on a dynamism of its own. She dated. A friend of hers said she became fixated over anyone in a three-button suit, looked good on paper and earned a decent income. Having been left a sizable inheritance by her father and mother, she was not beyond using gifts and displays of wealth to gain attention from potential suitors. The author says that at times Julie’s social life consisted of male colleagues with whom she worked and some of whom were married.

Dennis Bulloch was from a different mental world than the upper middle class world of Julie Miller. Despite his M.B.A., his job and associations, his frame of reference was not some idealized picture of life with wife and kids. Dennis Bulloch’s world reference was himself–“fulfilling my potential” as Harris quotes him. He appears as one of those not so rare specie of human–male and female–so entranced with their own concerns that other people are but mere objects. And they treat others like objects.

Before even meeting him, Julie did a preliminary check. She checked his employment. She checked how he paid his phone bill. Enraptured by her fantasy, finally finding her corporate Prince Charming, her long sought after Mr. Right, Julie was blind to the creaky armor, the shallow smile and baleful lies. She did not check the estranged wife who worked at the same company Julie worked. Nor did Julie check the other women Dennis Bulloch was seeing at the time he started courting her. These women, including the ex-wife, would remain a part of Dennis’s life throughout his ten month marriage to Julie.

I think DYING TO GET MARRIED is a book worth reading even for those not normally interested in the crime genre. It may be especially helpful for those among us who like happy endings. DYING TO GET MARRIED definitely does not have a happy ending and is an excellent primer on how not to have one. It is a slice of life–life lived as opposed to fantasized. The demarcation between life and fantasy is very well drawn here.

The barbs Harris hurls at our legal system is opinionated and to the point. She may not be the best writer this reviewer has read, but she certainly is one of the best at using the language.

Finally, my favorite line in this book is on page 118 where Harris discusses the population characteristics of St. Louis, Missouri (“the biggest small town in America”) and Jefferson County.



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