The Paper Marriage
by Bronwyn Williams, historical (2000)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29124-8

The Paper Marriage, I must admit, has very good storytelling going for it. But the heroine! If anyone happens to encounter a shambling silhouette on a foggy night that goes about moaning, "Brains! I want brains!", fear not. It's probably the heroine Rose. Then again, okay, be very afraid.

I understand Rose has problems. She lost her husband and daughter, yes. And she is broke. Yes. Okay, so she signs up as a mail-order bride of one Matthew Powers who needs a momma for his lil' Annie. I can deal with that all out-bore-familiar premise - I know what I am getting from a Harlequin Historical novel.

Broke and desolate, still Rose doesn't hesitate to get a last moment inferiority complex. "I'm not pretty! He won't want me!" and then she chickens up, leaving hubby-to-be standing at the makeshift altar. Then she poses as a hired nanny to live with Matthew and be supermommy. Eh? But while Matthew is a decent if stereotypical hero, the heroine eats the cake as the No-Brainer Of The Month, if not the year. It doesn't take much to push her into a inferiority panic attack again and again. She's not pretty, she's not worthy, she's not capable, she's not pure enough, she's not womanly enough, she's not... she's not smart, that's for sure. She runs away again and again and again until I stamp my foot and scream at Matthew, "Oh just push her off the cliff, damn it!"

The romance is strictly via the machinations of one Aunt Bess. Trust me, one day I can see Aunt Bess sitting by the marriage bed guiding Rose on how to do the bonkers. Rose is one pathetic, passive, Grade F twitty wimp of the nth order. Some readers may love such jolly-pathetic-no-self-esteem heroines, but me, if I do see that shambling "Want brain!" thing in the fog, she/it better hope I don't have my frying pan with me.

Rating: 38

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