Bantam, $6.50, ISBN 0-553-58183-X
Historical Romance, 2001 (Reissue)
“Loose” is what I will call author Teresa Medeiros’s hardcover debut The Bride and the Beast, although I’m cheap and thus waited to get the mass market paperback reissue. Oh, it’s frothy, bubbly, and it is funny at places, but it also drags too often for its own good. This book is also written in a glib, loose manner that I’m hard-pressed to appreciate that this is a romance between two outcasts until a second reading.
The villagers of Ballybliss are still cowering from the threat of the Butcher of Culloden when good horror, they are now being terrorized by the Dragon of Weyrcraig! Never mind that any decently smart fellow would wonder why a dragon – with wings and all – would demand alcohol, when the Dragon demand gold, the stupid villagers decide to send a virgin instead.
So here goes Gwendolyn Wilder, bookish, plump, and a ready martyr, who ends up “volunteering” for the Joan of Arc act. After all, she’s a virgin and every other woman isn’t. But it turns out that the Dragon is very much a man, a man who isn’t above feeling the kazoos for Gwen. Meet Mr Dragon, whose identity is top secret because he’s planning a big revenge on the villagers. But fear not, our heroine would unmask him before the story’s end.
Thing is, it’s a long way to go and there is very little to sustain the momentum except for bickering, Gwen’s vow to make her captivity hell on the Dragon, more bickering, some kissing and subsequent “Ooh la la!” daze, and more bickering. No big misunderstanding galore here, fortunately; Gwen and Mr Dragon do bicker in some playful manner that just cannot mask their increasing attraction to each other. But after a while I wish something would happen apart from their verbal foreplay. There’s only so much comedy I can take without wondering if anything else is going to happen.
Ultimately, however, the whole story collapses under its own predictable characters and plots. There’s the best buddy who falls in love with the heroine’s sister, for one, and let’s not forget that the heroine is the shy, timid, caretaking martyr with the common sense (eh?) who sacrifices for the people who treat her like dung. There’s no surprises in The Bride and the Beast, which would be okay if it’s fun, but it’s only so-so. Too little substance – more cotton candy than anything filling, I’m afraid.