The Marriage Masquerade
by Cheryl Anne Porter, historical (2002)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-97896-0

What do you call a romance novel where I just want to gag the hero and heroine up and place at least three oceans in between those two? On her own, Pinkerton's Agent Sarah Margaret "Yancey" Calhoun is a semi-capable heroine, but when she's with the hero, Americanized Duke Samuel Treyhorne, she's a "feminine" (purely in the context of romance novels, of course, and please read "feminine" as: simpering, blabbing, inept, careless, thoughtless, overly-emotional) dingbat. I have never seen so much blatant "romance novel-style feminization" shoot-me-in-the-knees-please sabotage in quite a while.

Tell me, is it a sin for a heroine to think for herself and hence become not too reliant on the hero to make sure that she takes two steps on her own safely?

Not that Yancey is that smart in the first place, or maybe if she is, the author's Super Exposition style doesn't help matters. In the first chapter, Mr Pinkerton and Yancey are happily completing each other's sentences to tell the readers what is going on. The trouble with this way of storytelling is that here we have two supposedly professional private investigators asking and answering each other very basic, simple matters even novice PIs should know. When two people start their dialogues so often with "You should know...", well, that's the problem: they should know. Then why are they babbling about it?

This problem is prevalent throughout the story. The author doesn't show. She has the characters talk about events more often than not, long after the events have passed. In movies, they have flashbacks to dull the effects of unneccessary over-exposition trigger happiness. In books, all I get are chatter, chatter, chatter. Oh shut up.

Come to think of it, Exposition Overdrive didn't help Buffy in that sucky Season Six finale, right? WTF? Evil Willow, the Satanic Wiccan lesbian, redeemed by a jerk, asshole heterosexual male Xander? And when our Pagan, Homosexual, Jewish bad woman is redeemed, out comes a Christian hymn? And worse, Giles Ex Machina comes to save the day? WTF? It makes Angel's DeannaTroization of Cordelia ("I'm going to heaven! Weee...") a work of art.

Ahem. Back to this book. Sorry, but damn, I am bitter about the suck quality of what used to be my two favorite TV shows.

The plot, okay, okay. In America, someone is murdering every Sarah Margaret he or she comes across. In fact, Yancey herself is almost murdered if she hasn't killed the murderer herself. Not that I am shown this - Yancey is telling her boss this, and that's how I know. At the same time, Yancey receives a letter meant for a "Sarah Margaret", the estranged wife of Samuel Treyhorne. Yancey's not the correct Sarah, but nonetheless, she decides to pack her bags to England and pose as this Sarah to investigate matters.

Sam decides to cooperate because he too wants to find proof that his cousin Roderick is behind the murder of his older brother. And we all know that cousins in England are all evil, evil, murderous bastards. It's a wonder why those men in England didn't just smother each other to death while they are sharing the same nursery and spare themselves the trouble of dealing with adult, genocidal cousins in the long run.

Sam claims to love all things American as opposed to English boring class systems, because we all know America is the land of the free. (Huh? Slavery? What's that? Isn't that something the English people do? We know Americans don't keep slaves - they throw tea into the sea and share happy cakes with African Americans who flee the terror of slavery from their Southern cousins, the... uh... Mexicans? Yeah, Mexicans! Evil slavers! I love revisionist history, how about you?) But nonetheless, this doesn't mean he will find an ally in a fellow Land of the Free revisionist visionary. He will bait her, toy with her, and Yancey will go all "hee hee hee" in a bad attempt to imitate a British bluestocking. It's quite bizarre and kinda scary too.

Still, childish baiting and owl-faced hee-hee-hee's aside, this story could have been a familiar but readable story if the author has stop expositioning and maybe show some action scenes once in a while. As it is, all the chatter and stultifying exposition just create a numbing effect on me. At the end of the day, The Marriage Masquerade has me staring into space in complete stupefaction.

Rating: 70

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