by Stephanie Laurens, historical (2010)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-179519-0
The Reckless Bride is supposed to be the exciting conclusion to the author's The Black Cobra Quartet series, but it turns out instead to be the Cynster edition of the phone book: dull, uninspired, interminable, and colorless.
Capt Rafe Carstairs, as part of the plan to flush out the Black Cobra (read all about the plan here if you are new to the series), is on his way back to England with the original document that will expose the Black Cobra. With him is his faithful servant Hassan, the obligatory Me Serve Big White Man Long Long Time foreign character in a book in this series. You'd think these two will travel long and hard to make it to England in time, but no, they take a leisurely trip from Constantinopole to England via Vienna and Rotterdam. They accompany our heroine Loretta Michelmarsh and her aunt Esme and... really, the first 300 pages of this story have our main characters basically visiting castles, old churches, and other places along the way. Loretta and Rafe predictably enough want to exchange body fluids, and eventually they do, and finally, they reach England, where every single character in the author's last 500 books all show up to strike a pose, smack each other's behind, and Voltron the villain into the next galaxy.
This book share the main flaw of the previous books in the series: the villains are portrayed as so horribly inept and the heroes so amazingly perfect, it is pretty unbelievable considering how the villains are built up to be such a great threat to the Honorable East India Company. The author also doesn't bother to portray several important scenes in the story, opting instead for the horribly fake technique of characters narrating events to each other in an artificial "We all know this, but let's talk about it for the reader's sake!" manner.
However, The Reckless Bride has the added charm of being dreadfully dull. The first two thirds of the book is all about scenery chewing. Ms Laurens probably took a trip to Europe recently and just had to tell everyone about it, but perhaps she should have just written those details in a blog instead of cramming everything into the book at the expense of plot. It is unbelievable enough that Rafe displays little sense of urgency or care about his important quest, but it is even more unbelievable when our good guys get to tour the sights of Europe in a leisurely manner when the bad guys are supposedly pursuing them.
The main characters are flat. They could very well have been two tree stumps. Rafe is a Cynster clone devoid of even a hint of personality. Loretta is another heroine who doesn't want to get married and that's pretty much all there is to her personality. She actively pursues a sexual relationship with Rafe but refuses to marry him afterward despite having taken no precautions to prevent a pregnancy. Rafe and Loretta perform the same song and dance that has been done to death in the author's previous books as well as in every other historical romance published by Avon. So what else is new here? Unfortunately, nothing.
Oh, and the author once again shows a not very subtle middle finger to her detractors in this book by having all her characters come out to strike a pose and then happily pointing out that all these characters are similar.
The Reckless Bride is a horribly flat by-the-number rehash of the author's single song and dance, only this time everything, even the sex scenes, feels bland and lifeless. Some books are best read by die-hard fans, but I think this one is better read only by insomniac die-hard fans. It's so boring, there is really no point for this book to be published. Avon should do the right thing and recycle copies of this book as penance for the trees that are cut down to make this stupefyingly dull book.
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