by Katie MacAlister, historical (2004)
Leisure, $6.99, ISBN 0-8439-5144-3
Okay, Katie MacAlister is really confusing me now. While her vampire and contemporary stories are putrid regurgitation of the same old plot - an American braindead heroine in Europe - and with the less said about her paranoia the better, she manages to come out with The Trouble With Harry, a singularly vexing, exasperating, annoying, and bewildering book filled with so much promise but so little delivered. What a waste.
The forty-five year old marquis hero Harry Haversham has been a widow for five years now and he decides that he will need a wife to warm up his lonely nights and - this is more important to him - to take his unruly five monster children in hand. What does he do? He advertises for a wife in the local paper of his county seat. That way, he cuts straight to the chase without enduring the tedious socializing that goes with the usual way a nobleman finds his wife.
To Frederica "Plum" Pelham, this is exactly the opportunity she is looking for. She's forty. Nobody wants to marry her because of her past. Around twenty years ago, she married a guy only to learned that she was his second wife and - here is the sticky part - he wasn't a Mormon. She had braved scandal and her family's rejection for this guy so she had no choice but to flee Polite Society after the painful truth about her farce of a marriage came out. Marrying Harry would be her one attempt to solve her financial problems.
There are some things I really like about this book. The characters are mature folks in age (although from Plum's actions, I'd be hard-pressed to peg her age as anything over twelve). The monster children are monsters - and not to be confused with Plum, although I'm not sure if readers are to be blamed if they do - and they don't miraculously turn into angels overnight. Harry is actually a cute guy, a little stiff-lipped but adorable nonetheless.
But Ms MacAlister's apparent inability to bestow her heroines even one iota of common sense is the biggest obstacle in this book. Plum is seriously delusional and the thing is, Ms MacAlister insists that Plum is sassy and funny. When Plum starts blurting nonsense that crosses her mind without restrain to cause all sorts of unfunny comedy of errors, this book is no longer funny as much as painfully stupid. This book is filled with one-note characters designed to be funny but end up irritating me to no end because they keep playing out their single schtick again and again until everything about this book is played out and flogged to death. There are subplots galore, from mysteries to Plum's career as the author of a scandalous banned book, but everything is glazed over by everyone behaving like a painfully unfunny idiot.
This story does not follow the usual historical Mary Poppins formula. But on the downside, the author treats this book like it's a dog that she brains in the head repeatedly with her crowbar to canned laughter in the background, hoping that her oh-so-amusing work will bag her the hundred dollar prize money of America's Funniest Home Video. Sure, her fans say that nobody writes like Katie MacAlister. If she keeps up at this, I hope for all that is good and holy, nobody does indeed and nobody ever will.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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