Never A Bride
by Amelia Grey, historical (2001)
Jove, $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13062-1
Mirabella Whittingham wants to seek out the murderer of her best friend. She knows he has a scar at the back of his neck. So our heroine decides to kiss every man she can meet at parties to seek out the villain. Now, with this brainwave of a plot, either Mirabella is on a good start towards the road to bimbohood or she is a genius. But since Never A Bride, the author formerly known as Gloria Dale Skinner's debut Regency historical romance, follows the formula down to a tee, Mirabella has no choice but to be quite an idiot. Put in the fact that she has an ignorant, sickly daddy stuck in the country somewhere, she feels guiltyguiltyguiltyguilty all the time she kisses someone and never lets up a chance to tell me about it. If she's not feeling guilty, she's feeling twinges of it because she is using her absent-minded uncle for her "selfish" deception, she is feeling twinges of conscience because she tells a lie... oh, enough already, lady! If you feel so bad, just pack up, go home, and get a drinking habit.
Her hubby-to-be is gone for six years and counting. Camden has been hurt before, yawn yawn yawn, he doesn't trust women anymore, yawn yawn yawn, and he'd rather play with his business investments in America than play hubby in England. He finally returns at the urging of his family to wed that chit. On his first night home, he kisses this chit... guess who she is. He doesn't know, but he likes that kiss, and he is also grateful that his wife-to-be will never be as brazen that this harlot, whom he really likes and will seek out if he isn't going to be married to this wife he isn't looking forward to but is glad to because she is sure to be noble and proper (a woman who stupidly waits for him for six years has to be stupidly virtuous) but dang it, he so wants to bone that hot kissy chick... let's just say Camden is one twisted hypocrite. He doesn't like gossips in England - America is where he wants to be (ahem) - but he isn't above listening to them and measuring his wife according to society's standards.
So Mirabella has to now prove that she is up to Camden's standards (hero doesn't have to prove himself worthy of heroine - it's the penile fait accompli: have penis, pass go, collect $200) as well as to find the murderer of her best friend. By the way, the villain is a cardboard caricature, his identity fairly obvious to me the moment he is introduced into the story.
Plot is not Never A Bride's strength. Any woman who goes around puckering her lips not for fun but for vengeance needs more gingko biloba in her meals. Add in a dull, stereotypical hero with all the predictable shallow "All women are bitches" baggage and Never A Bride is never going to be anything but a mediocre read.
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