Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-242842-4
Historical Romance, 2017
Four authors start 2017 by telling readers new to them, via the Four Weddings and a Sixpence anthology, to never pick anything else from them ever again. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but the contributions of three authors in this one range from dull to forgettable. Only Julia Quinn’s contributions – she has two stories here – are worth a look.
Julia Quinn kicks off the show with Something Old, which isn’t a romance story as much as it is setting the stage for the rest of the stories. Four young girls end up being roommates in a school for girls, and they discover an old coin buried inside one of the girls’ matress. Believing that it will bring them some luck in the getting-a-hubby department, they all make a pledge that whoever hold the coin at that time will pass it to another one of them after this girl gets married. So, that’s it. Ready for the next story?
Stefanie Sloane offers Something New, which is Anne Brabourne’s story. She meets Rhys Hamilton, the Duke of Dorset, when she leaves the party to come into a quiet room where the hero is silently lurking. Well, that’s something I have never read before! These two proceed to practically narrate their issues to one another. My goodness, this story is basically every freaking cliché tossed into the pot, as if the author wants readers to know, desperately, “I am really good at copying all your favorite authors, so please buy my books or I will be forced to collect cat droppings to be made into soup this winter, and you don’t want that, do you?”
Because the characters love to talk, I get the same old stuff like Anne having to marry before she is twenty-one but she doesn’t want to marry, he doesn’t want to marry too, blah blah blah. Only, because they are narrating things, the whole story resembles those creepy children PSA they used to have on TV back in those days. You know, something like Rhys the Horny Clown coming onto the TV to say, slowly so that the kids can understand, “Hello, cute ones! Today, Uncle Horny will share with you why you must never touch yourself.” And then, Anne the Cow will pipe up, “Oh, Uncle Horny, please tell us why touching ourselves is bad!” And so Uncle Horny will talk about hairy palms, blindness, and so forth in a way that will make anyone over the age of fifteen want to slash his or her wrists. That’s this story. It’s basically a litany of uninspired clichés and I don’t remember much of the story once I’m done with it. Maybe that’s for the best.
Elizabeth Boyle is next with Something New. Cordelia Padley’s father left her with a pile of debts, and her aunts are pestering her to marry. Despite being in a precarious financial position, Cordelia refuses to marry because all she wants is to be free and traipse around the place, although heaven knows what she wants to do with all that freedom. Maybe she’s graze on grass and lick some tree bark. Anyway, she lies to her meddling relatives that she already has a betrothed. This is where Winston Talcott, the Earl of Thornton steps in. He, too, wants to be free and see the world, although his title means that he has to do boring stuff like get married and have plenty of sex to beget a brat.
Once again, this is another parade of boring, played-out clichés. Unlike the previous story, however, Ms Boyle does her usual convoluted plotting thing, so this long short story takes forever to get anywhere. The two main characters are already doing the same old song and dance in the most unoriginal manner possible, but… well, let me put it this way. It is late into the story when they finally get to the “Let’s fake an engagement!” thing. Honestly, if the author wants to bore me out of my mind, she could at least do it quickly. I have a lot of things to do, after all, so chop-chop!
Laura Lee Guhrke presents Something Blue, which has Elinor Daventry determined to marry some guy in order to save her father from complete financial and social ruination. The guy she held out for, in vain, Lawrence Blackthorne, knows that her father is guilty, however, so he wants to sabotage her plans to save that man. Only, he doesn’t know whether he wants her for herself or to make sure that her father is completely ruined.
This one needs to be longer, because in its current length, Lawrence doesn’t have to do anything. Ellie basically lets herself be strung along, tries to stand up to him only to get flummoxed, and finally realizes that he is right and she is wrong, so she loves him, the end. Lawrence is like that kid who grabs your favorite candy, holds it out of your reach, and then laughs at you as you beg him to give it back to you. There is something very unsatisfying about seeing everything fall into place so easily for such an ass, and perhaps a longer story would have endeared him more to me. Still, I remember something about this story – there’s a silly ass in it – which is more than I can say about the previous two stories.
And finally, Julia Quinn offers the only reason why this anthology isn’t pegged with a one-oogie rating: … and a Sixpence in Her Shoe. This is a perfectly sweet and adorable story of Beatrice Heywood and Lord Frederick Grey-Osbourne. Both are scholarly types, and the story is simple – it’s all about falling in love. In fact, this is exactly what a short story should be: fun to read, romantic at many instances, and free from clutter. The secondary characters that show up actually add value to the story, and the whole thing is just sweet and funny. I actually read this one twice before I finally close the book for good, because I just cannot imagine that I actually like something here, heh. But like it I did, so so much too, and really, thank heavens for the story, or else this anthology would have been one festering blister of a read from start to end.
But, even if you are a fan of the author, I’d recommend borrowing this anthology instead of paying for it. The rest of the stories are not worth the money – go spend it on something nicer.