Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-000661-7
Historical Romance, 2004
Is this book a joke? I have to check the copyright date several times to reassure myself that it’s a new book and not some reissue from 1984 because A Perfect Bride is like an unfunny parody of the stories back in those days when the heroine’s virtue was measured by how many men that tried to rape her on a daily basis (how sad, how sad) and a hero’s worth was in how he could feed, clothe, and shag the heroine when he was not calling her a whore or a thief.
Devon St James, the heroine, is the bastard daughter of who knows who. Startlingly beautiful, she works as a barmaid in a seedy tavern where she has to fight off lust-crazed men on a daily basis. One day, she is attacked by thieves and as I yawn, our hero Sebastian Sterling comes upon her beauteous near-dead body. Since Devon stuffs a pillow under her stomach to pretend that she’s pregnant (fat good that did her, she should have just bought a gun), he is all about helping a skinny pregnant waif into his carriage and taking her to his home.
Where he then undresses her and realizes that while she’s not pregnant (hurrah!) she has an expensive necklace on her. She must be a thief! Devon, when she comes to, naturally can’t explain things to him clearly. Ms James doesn’t want people to accuse Devn of being weak so she has Devon being “feisty” instead. Meaning: Devon talks nonsense at inappropriate moments. And no, I can’t strangle her into silence, alas. Anyway, once Sebastian realizes that Devon works in a tavern, naturally he assumes that she is a whore. But once he hears about how Devon has to fight off brutal men ravenous for a piece of her malnourished self (and I’m sure she probably doesn’t shampoo regularly either), he is convinced that she is pure and now he wants a piece of her too. But he’s different from those lust-crazed men because he is hot. Oh, and very rich.
Sebastian decides to teach Devon the social niceties of the Ton so that he can marry her off to someone, even if he knows that she will be ruined for living alone with him. Don’t worry, Devon doesn’t care because what they have is true love, you know, even if he’s planning to marry her off even as he sleeps with her, because true love is, like, so beautiful and I think I need to throw up. By the way, Sebastian doesn’t want love because a long time ago his faithless mommy fled in terror, I mean, abandoned him like the slut she was, so now all women are no good bitches in his estimation. Can Devon’s innate purity and her willing surrender of her maidenhead heal the wounds in poor Sebastian’s soul?
A Perfect Bride is beyond creepy. The heroine is completely under the hero’s mercy throughout the book and many things she does, like sleeping with him, only emphasizes how easily she can be used and discarded by Sebastian. Of course, she doesn’t care – it’s true love, after all, on her part. In fact, she’s willing to give everything up for his own good because she is a nobody and he is too good for her, boo-hoo-hoo. Sebastian isn’t in love with her as much as he seems to be smitten with her extreme helplessness and the fact that should he throws her out on the street, she really has nowhere else to go. Devon is pathetic and her tendency to mouth off like an idiot makes her a pathetic dingbat. Sebastian is not a boyfriend as much as he is some pimp daddy taking some homeless waif off the street for his jollies. In a story rife with hackneyed plot devices like overheard conversations and silly misunderstandings, all this exploitation and victimization become only more unpalatable to read.