Avon Impulse, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-222734-8
Historical Romance, 2013 (Reissue)
Royal Bridesmaids, like the anthology Royal Weddings from last year, is apparently inspired by the wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. This one, in particular, is inspired by Pippa Middleton. I don’t know why the publicity materials claim this, since none of the heroines here are party-going divas. Then again, I don’t know why they bother to issue this one in mass market paperback, because in this one, the real meat are the three short stories by Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, and Loretta Chase, which when put together constitute fewer pages than the seven – seven! – excerpts included here. This one has more padding than the walls of a lunatic asylum!
Stephanie Laurens kicks things off with A Return Engagement. Frances Daughtry is marrying Frederick, the Prince of Leutenberg. Not only does “Freddie and Frances” sound so disgustingly cute together, the Crown approves of this alliance for political reasons. Robert Knightley, an agent of the Crown and Frederick’s BFF, is there as the wedding ceremony draws near to ensure that everything goes as planned. He doesn’t anticipate that there is something… off… with Frances, and he gets a bigger surprise when Nell, Frances’s sister, shows up to escort Frances. I know, it is so shocking that the sister of the bride shows up to be the bridesmaid. At any rate, Nell and Robert once had a thing, but the thing stopped being one soon after, and now they want feel that thing between them again.
This one is actually the best story of the three, because it has a pretty decent pay-off and, most importantly, it feels like a complete story. But still, what a waste of time. The “secret” turns out to be one that is easily resolved, and now Robert and Frances talk to realize that they were so silly back in those days, so hey, they are getting married too. And that’s it for the story. The time it takes for me to sneeze is longer than the time I need to finish this story.
Gaelen Foley’s The Treaty of the Kingdom of Fire & Ice or, the Imposter Bride sounds like a whimsical story, but it turns out to be a story with poor pay-off instead. The kingdom of Saardova has been soundly defeated by the armies from Rydalburg, and now, Princess Giulietta of Saardova is going to marry Prince Tor of Rydalburg in an effort to create some kind of peace between the two kingdoms. Only, despite the best efforts of the Princess’s BFF Minerva de Messina to ensure that the wedding takes place, the Princess decamps the day before the big day. Fearing that the war will resume and Saardova will be completely crushed as a result, Minerva takes the Princess’s place and marries Tor. No one on the Rydalburg entourage has seen the Princess’s face, so she can pull this off. Right?
This one starts out pretty decent, but the pay-off is just horrible. Minerva is unmasked – please, as if you don’t see that coming – Tor goes into King King mode, and then, three weeks pass and he suddenly shows up to announce that he wants to marry Minerva, the end. That’s it. No epiphany, nothing, just Tor telling Minerva he wants her back and she’s like, “Okay, story’s over now, everyone – the exit’s over there.”
Loretta Chase’s Lord Lovedon’s Duel is the worst story of the three. I know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, as I generally adore the works of this author, but hey, these things happen, especially when she takes part in the publisher’s efforts to bilk me of my money. This story starts out well. Chloe Sharp’s sister is marrying a Prince from another country, and all is well… until she and the bride overhear the fashionable – and fashionably drunk – Earl of Lovedon telling loudly to his friends that the Prince is only marrying Chloe’s sister for new chimneys in his three crumbling castles, and the Prince had a paramour, whom he loves, cast aside to make way for his bride. Chloe is enraged and challenges James Bransby, the Earl, to a duel.
The author spends so much time building up this duel, it is actually pretty horrifying when, after the duel is over, the story skips to four weeks later, when these two announce that they have fallen in love and they are getting married – all in two and a half pages! Compare that to the 23 pages devoted to setting up events leading to the duel, and this one seems suspiciously like the first chapter of an aborted draft of a book, with two and a half pages of quickie resolution glued at the end to pass this thing off as a “short story”.
Royal Bridesmaids has three very short and forgettable stories packaged with excerpts of upcoming books from these authors as well as from four other works in the Avon Impulse line. Basically, I’ve paid $5.99 for an advertisement from Avon instead of a genuine anthology. Honestly now, do the publishers and these authors really need money that bad? They could have just let me donate the $5.99 to them directly instead of humiliating themselves and insulting me like this. This pointless and utterly stupid waste of time of an anthology may as well as be called Royal Con Job.