Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-92602-6
Historical Romance, 2017
I have been falling so behind in my review of historical romances, and those with story lines like the one in Christine Merrill’s A Convenient Bride for the Soldier is one of those reasons. Oh god, the plot, the plot, and how it makes an otherwise well-written story resembles a hot mess that has been left out in the sun and crapped upon by passing stray animals for a week or so.
Georgiana Knight is trapped in a Cinderella-like situation: her unpleasant stepmother is forcing her to marry her lecherous step-cousin Sir Nash Bowles and our heroine is having none of that. When George hears that Nash has unsavory habits that he indulges in the neighborhood gentleman’s club, she decides that she will go spy on that man in that club and then use the evidence of his disgusting desires to force him to stop pestering her! As you can guess, she is the only one shocked when she finds herself in that club, Vitium et Virtus, being auctioned off to the highest bidder. That’s a smart one, I have to say.
Fortunately, our hero Frederick Challlenger (seriously, that’s his name) buys her without knowing whom she is, as apparently virginity is like some kind of scent a debauched rake like him can sniff out, and he finds the idea of getting it on with an innocent hot, hot, hot. Oh, don’t worry, he knows that she can’t really be an innocent, or a virgin, because everyone in the club that he co-owns (his fellow buddies will get their own books next, naturally) is either a hot rake ready for a romance novel of his own or a shameless slut who deserves the unreserved hatred of us virtuous romance readers. And, because she is a woman, she totally deserves getting what she gets, as she is, after a slut.
No, wait, the moment he discovers that she’s actually that same annoying, if hot, debutante whom he has taken pains to be rude towards, he suddenly decides that she’s not a slut after all. Just an idiot. Well, I can’t disagree with that idiot thing, that’s for sure. And because of the club can be damaged if news gets out that an idiot woman of noble birth nearly gets debauched against her will in that club (especially considering that many people had seen him making the £10,000 bid on her), he has to marry her. Also, Nash will cause problem unless she is no longer available for marriage. Plus, he has sisters, so he can’t let this drama taint the reputation of his family too.
Oh boy, where do I even begin? How about a hero who is concerned about his reputation affecting his sisters, and yet he happily continues to manage and be seen cavorting around in his gentleman’s club? Frederick is an inconsistent mess. The author really lays it thick that every rake secretly finds sleeping with a virgin the best sexual experience ever – maybe because all romance readers are supposed to be frustrated virgins and this is the kind of validation we need from our romance novels – and that the reason Frederick didn’t lay the pipe into George is not because she’s an innocent but because she’s an innocent of noble birth.
Sure, you can argue that this is a realistic portrayal of a man of his time, but that’s not my objection with him – I mean, I’m okay with this if that guy ended up having an epiphany that helps him get his act together by the last page. My issue here is that the whole “I married a virgin of noble birth thing” becomes the central focus of his angst for not consummating the marriage or letting the wife know that he likes her more than she thinks. That’s right, the hero’s pain stems from having a beautiful wife whose innocence makes him want to erupt in his pants for ninety days straight, a wife who wants him to boink her any way he wants, and that’s no good because he once slept with a woman when he really shouldn’t. I wish I’m joking.
Also, Frederick is determined to be an honorable and responsible fellow to ensure that his siblings do not become debauched walking Neisseria gonorrhoeae incubators. Did I tell you that he is the co-owner of a club that hosts all kind of sexual debauchery?
While George isn’t going to be winning any awards for brainpower anytime soon, at least she is somewhat consistent in her actions and thoughts here. But the only reason that I can see for her to find Frederick a deserving beau is because she has no other man in her life who will treat her any better. Frederick is a hot mess of a character – everything about him makes sense only if I view him as a walking propaganda for how virgin honeypots are the best and all those hot men who slept with hot, skinny women instead of me are therefore losing out by choosing those SLUTS instead of me and oh god, I am still a fat ugly virgin after reading this book and therefore, I am going to buy more stories like this one or I don’t know how to cope anymore. Oh wait, I’m not such a reader, and therefore, Frederick with his laughable, vapid, contradictory “angst” is a fail where I am concerned.
Anyway, the author is a solid writer, hence A Convenient Bride for the Soldier is still readable and easily digested without any painful aftereffects. But surely she can do better than this bewildering read, which would only be a hundred pages long at most if the hero had wised up and sold off his shares in that stupid club.