Grand Central Publishing, $8.00, ISBN 978-1-4555-1891-3
Historical Romance, 2014
James Simpson likes to play fast and loose with unmarried ladies of the Ton. Oh, he doesn’t sleep with them, he restricts himself to sneaking off with them during a ball for some fun session of “stolen kisses”. He goes as far as to say that the ladies he has, uh, “schooled” went on to use their newly learned tricks to bag desirable husbands. Well, good for him and his magnanimity. What would we poor stupid women do without a gentleman like him?
Alas, the Free University of Stolen Kisses and Gropes is forced to close when Emily Cardington decides to sneak off alone to meet James for some real fun and games. Well, this works for women in other romance novels, but unfortunately, no one told Emily that she’s not the designated romance heroine, and thus branded by the author as the worst kind of woman to come up with such a plot. James is found kissing Emily with his hand on her rump by her sister Lucinda, so it’s time for the wedding bells to ring.
Not so fast, says the girls’ father. It’s not right that the eldest sister doesn’t get married before Emily, whom by now is clearly the designated unworthy worm compared to precious Lucinda, so James has better find Lucinda a hubby ASAP or James will marry Emily with no dowry. James suddenly remembers that he’d need money when he inherits, he hasn’t exactly been saving up his pennies (he’s in fact been spending them freely like he poops gold out of his rump every day), and oh, his poor family if he is penniless so okay, he’d do this. See, readers? James is clearly a gentleman, he’s in this for the sake of all the precious wounded unicorns in the land. The only skanks here are Emily and her shrill shrewish mother, because heaven forbid we have more than one saintly heroine in a romance story. Readers may get confused.
To be fair, Lucinda isn’t that much of a saint and she’s not written as one. She’s, in fact, a delusional twit who imagines that she’s a saint who is so much better than everyone else. A Bride for the Season follows the same formula as Jennifer Delamere’s previous two books in the Lover’s Grace series: one half of the couple in a marriage-of-necessity, in this case the heroine, is a delusional moron responsible for nearly all the dumb drama in the story, and the climax of the story sees the other half dressing down this moron until the moron goes, “Oh yeah, me moron!” before making up with the other person and having a happy ending within the next few closing pages of the story. Fortunately for me, at least here, the biggest crime Lucinda is guilty of is being an insufferable self-righteous twat sucking on delusions of sainthood and what not. She’s practically Mahatma Gandhi compared to the criminally stupid wretches in the previous two books.
However, A Bride for the Season is too superficial and shallow for its own good. There is some character development, but not to an extent that is believable or realistic. Take a look at James: he starts out an immature dingbat, and his transformation to a more mellow person is abruptly done with little believable transition. I still scratch my head when he berates Lucinda for being a donkey, because he’s not exactly the person qualified to judge other people’s maturity. His dressing down feels out of character, actually, because I’m not sure how he gains the awareness to develop such an insight. That scene feels too much like the author’s own voice emerging from the hero’s mouth, if I am making sense here.
Lucinda… well, on one hand, I’m glad the author at least didn’t create such an unbearable boor by accident under the delusion that Lucinda is everyone’s darling. But it’s hard to appreciate Lucinda’s “maturity” when it happens within the last few pages, followed by a rushed reconciliation and happy ending. The author lets her heroine go wild in that “I don’t just have a stick up my arse, darling, it’s an entire telephone pole!” act for way too long for her rushed epiphany to be believable. Also, it’s hard to appreciate the heroine’s character growth – or what passes for it – when the story is so shallow. Emily is a caricature, which I suppose is a necessity since it’s probably too much work to let James and Lucinda basically cuckold her without having James look like a jerk should Emily is given even a little redeeming trait. But I’m not sure what the excuse is for those cartoon shrew mothers (both James’s and Lucinda’s).
The portrayal of women here are so starkly noticeable in how over the top negative they tend to be compared to those of the men here. James led Emily on as much she did he early in the story, and yet Emily ends up being the scarlet tart in the whole scenario while James is somehow sold by the author as a desirable husband material. Perhaps this “all women suck but men can’t do wrong because yay, the penis is godly and almighty!” stuff is an accidental result of the author relying on lazy shortcuts in her story, but she’s practically issuing out invitation cards to people who want to believe that the double standards in this story are deliberate as a result of skewed perception of life in general.
So, at the end of the day, A Bride for the Season is the best book in the trilogy, but that’s by default as the characters in the other two books are more deserving of a slow and painful death compared to the “mere” superficially and lazily portrayed characters in this book. Therefore, on paper this book should get a three-oogie rating because the other two books fared worse with me. I can’t bear the idea of showing such indulgence to a book with this many misfires, however, and besides, while Lucinda is the least annoying of the idiots in the series, I won’t shed a tear if someone drops an elephant on her.