by Jane Feather, historical (2004)
Bantam, $6.99, ISBN 0-553-58620-3
The Wedding Game is an amazing piece of work - it not only supplants the previous book in the author's Idiot Sisters Who Must Die trilogy, The Bride Hunt, as the worst I've read from Jane Feather, but it also manages to portray its main characters as insufferably arrogant, loud, hypocritical, and downright unpleasant. Forget romance, the notion that the two idiots in this story will be procreating makes me ill.
The ironically-named Chastity Duncan is the last of the unmarried Duncan sisters. As per the case of the previous book, her sisters have married well but she is still trying to make ends meet. So much for sisterhood and suffragist movements, I tell you, when these suffragists end up succumbing entirely under the beck and call of their misogynist husbands. Charity however has a Plan: she will marry her father off to an Italian Contessa! The fact that her father made a mess of his previous marriage and burdened the daughters with the thankless task of shouldering the responsibilities he callously overlooks and the fact that he shows no sign of changing as a person do not factor in her Plan - Chastity just wants to make her father happy forever and ever!
At the same time, our hero is Douglas Farrell, a doctor who unreasonably hates all aristocrats yet who wants to marry an aristocratic and rich bride to provide him the money and the reputation to start a successful practice in Harley Street. He wants Chastity to help him find this gullible pig for him to skin and make bacon out of. Even if he plans to use his wife's money to start a hospital in the slums, I am beyond caring. Firstly, he wants to marry a woman solely for her money and her reputation. Secondly, he expects the wife to treat the marriage as one of convenience while he uses her money at will. I wonder what the wife can expect from this marriage. His sexual prowess? I think the pogo stick will be a more enjoyable alternative. Douglas is a hypocrite who hates the blue-bloods unreasonably and even stupidly and does not hesitate to act very cruelly at times to indulge in his bigotry. Yet at the same time he passes himself off as some man of bloody scruples. Give me a break.
Chastity isn't a prize either - for all her stance on female independence, she is conspiring to persuade a Contessa to marry her father for all the wrong reasons while trying to get the Contessa's daughter to marry Douglas, a man she hates but simultaneously lusts over. A woman who thinks nothing of trapping her fellow sisters to such unpleasant men has no right to go about acting like some self-righteous prig, but look, there's Chastity! Let's beat her down with the pogo stick!
The romance in this book follows the same pattern as the previous two books in the Idiot Hypocritical Women Who Love Jerks trilogy: Chastity and Douglas seem more to be in lust than love. The elements of tenderness, respect, and trust are all conspicuously absent here. Instead, all I get are two self-righteous hypocritical jerks wailing about how superior they are to every bloody fellow in the world while they insult each other and rip off each other's clothes at the same time. Frankly, these two deserve each other. I can only wish that I can say the same about me and this book.
I don't know what happened to this author. Maybe the pressure to put out three books in three months is affecting her writing, because this book shows a marked decline in the quality of the author's descriptive and characterization skills. More bewilderingly, she seems to lack any self-awareness about how hypocritical her characters are and sets about romanticizing their unpleasantly mercenary intentions and portraying them as people I should be rooting for. It is this lack of self-awareness on the author's part that convinces me that The Wedding Game is not a character study of flawed people (such as Judith Ivory's Beast, for example) as much as it is just the third carriage in the author's trainwreck of a trilogy.
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