Courtney Milan, $4.99
Historical Romance, 2018
Adrian Hunter is the family member most other members of his family prefer to keep stashed away. You see, his mother (then a widow) married a black abolitionist, and the woman’s very English family decided to announce that she was dead rather than to let folks know that she had went off to America with her husband. While his brothers are doing their own thing – how else will sequels be made? – he is the secretary of his uncle, Bishop Denmore. Oh, he is not doing this solely out of charity or love; while he does hope to see the day when he is acknowledged as a member of the family, he also hopes to leverage his uncle’s professed fondness for his late mother into using that man’s power to further the good cause of abolishing slavery.
Meanwhile, Camilla Worth is the family member everyone else will rather do without. A poor relation, she is currently scuttled off to live with the miserable Rector Miles. Her sole regret is choosing to live with this man instead of remaining with her sisters back when they were all poor, and now, she would love nothing more than to make contact with them again. However, you know how heroines can be. She abandoned her sisters so now she doesn’t deserve their love. She doesn’t deserve anybody’s love! Yes, get ready to steel your nerves, she’s that kind of heroine.
Their paths cross when Denmore uses the excuse of being family with Adrian to get our hero to infiltrate his rival Lassiter’s household to find incriminating evidence that can ruin that man and elevate Denmore in that man’s place. Those two visit Rector Miles’s place, and our hero and heroine soon bond. Unfortunately, circumstances – or perhaps a conspiracy – see those two being caught in a compromising position, and they are soon forced to wed at gunpoint.
Of course, things happen, these two fall in love in the end, blah blah blah. I won’t say much else because I find After the Wedding bland, and if you’re like me and I’ve accidentally revealed too much, you may just find the story even twice more boring. The blandness is due to two things: the hero and the heroine.
Adrian is just too good to be believable. Regardless of whether he may indeed be the case or not, Adrian is a lot like those heroes of color written in these politically touchy times: these characters invariably end up without any discernible flaws or vulnerabilities, probably because no author wants to be slammed and torn apart in social media for being “racist”. There is nothing distinctive or unique about Adrian being a non-white man – aside from his skin color, his angst could very well be that of any bastard rake needing more hugs from his family members. I know, no author wants to be ripped to shreds by the social justice heifers on social media for cultural appropriation either. It’s tough being a woke author these days. Write characters of color for diversity points, but write a character that is too black or yellow or whatever, oh no, here comes the mob with the pitchforks. Write a more well-rounded character with a sense of humor, oh no, here comes the other mob faction with torches and ropes.
At the end of the day, I get a bland, bland, bland hero whose only memorable trait is his skin color. Also, while the author has committed this sin many times in the past, Adrian is the most obvious example of a character with empathy-out-of-the-ass. How on earth does he get to be this understanding, knowledgeable, sensitive, kind, tender, good in sex, and so forth? Maybe they grow men like this in the land of politically correct diversity. Adrian’s positive traits just happen, maybe because he is blessed with magic melanin in his skin, to such a point that he is dangerously close to being the Magical Negro stereotype to Camilla. So much perfection that seems to be here just because they just are, and so much yawner.
As for Camilla, she is one-dimensional in how she wants love but she thinks that she doesn’t deserve it. All the better for the Magical Hero of Color to boost her self-esteem, of course, to such a degree that this story ends up being a damsel in emotional distress tale. What, she’d rather suffer in silence instead of writing to her sisters? Some people may find that noble, but I can only give her the side eye when this angst sees her whining repetitively throughout the bulk of the story.
The romance, therefore, feels more like a mix of therapy couch session and “Hello, woke people! Have you dry humped a man of color today?” sentiments. What. they’re in love? I don’t see it, to be honest. Maybe it’s due to all that perfect, sexy, magical pheromones produced by the hero’s melanocytes, because heaven knows there isn’t much else to his personality or character.
After the Wedding is too well-written to be anything less than a three-oogie read, but it is a bland and boring three-oogie read. Reading this book makes me feel like I’m dating this perfectly acceptable, cute, but bland guy who just keeps droning on and on and on. Eventually I look out the window and spot this hot guy on a bike, and we proceed to make naughty eye contact while the poor guy keeps talking. That’s this story in a nutshell. Perfectly acceptable, but I find myself more intrigued by things that are far less perfect and clear cut.