A Stylish Marriage
by Patricia Waddell, historical (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7324-0

A Stylish Marriage sees itself Waddelling most painfully to the finishing line. The heroine Regina Van Buren is an American suffragist, but to her credit, she actually knows what she is talking about when she's screaming about equality. There are times when Ms Waddell still mistakes "feminism" for the "I wanna act and scream like a braindead idiot and you can't stop me because I'm a woman and I have the right!" manifesto but Regina isn't that bad, truly.

But the hero, Jonathan Belmont Parker is an arrogant robot with a sense of entitlement bigger than the whole continent of Asia, and Regina's unthinking infatuation with this man makes utter mockery out of her stance. When it comes to all but men, the woman is pretty okay.

She wants equality and she is investigating the murder of her fellow suffragist. He wants to marry her, mocks her, acts so condescending that I want to smack him black and blue every two pages, and has no sense of humor whatsoever. He's Von Trapp Version 2.0 (Humorless Pig). When she's talking about her beliefs, he isn't even listening, instead lusting over her breasts and thinking what cute babies she will give him. It's rather pathetic, because she really believes in her ideals and he perceives them as some amusing indulgences of hers because she doesn't have a man and babies to cater to. This issue isn't resolved by the end, so I give these two people a generous two months of matrimonial bliss before the marriage train derails.

For too many times, Regina will pout and rant because Jonathan acts like a jerk, but then tells me that it's a pity she's so in love with him and so she can't do anything but to obey him. Well, so much for feminism and taking control of one's sexuality. More puzzling, how can you be in love with a man who you know doesn't respect you or even care for what you think about things?

This is a romance story littered with so many issues that, were they addressed, will make a very interesting read. But Patricia Waddell chooses to use external conflicts and childish infatuations as the foundations of her story instead. What could've been a tempestous relationship in the end becomes a sad story of a feminist submitting everything - including decision-making - to the hands of the Daddy Authority figure she apparently needs to make her life complete. Feminism? Just a way to pass the time until the woman finds a husband. This rather insulting message is brought to you courtesy of Patricia Waddell.

Needless to say, A Stylish Marriage isn't stylish at all.

Rating: 50

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