Bantam, $6.99, ISBN 0-553-58619-X
Historical Romance, 2004
There are authors out there that make it big once they abandon their complex characters and complicated plots for dumbed-down la-la-land sojourns in the land of formulaic plots and characters. Since Jane Feather is already hitting the New York Times bestseller lists, I have no idea why she sees this need to dumb down her story until her heroines in her latest trilogy have the intellectual capacity of a ten-year old child. Maybe she wants to be bigger, I guess. But fans of intelligent heroines and spirited heroes this author delivered in the past best hug themselves tight and steel their nerves as the Duncan sisters in The Bride Hunt act like Disney cartoon characters. I mean, often one sister will say something in a particular scene, and the other two actually chime in unison their response.
This book is Prudence Duncan’s story. After exposing a licentious nobleman’s sex crimes on his household staff and helpless women, The Mayfair Lady is now being sued by the nobleman in question. The sisters are horrified. Oh god – they get sued! What are they to do? I am quite dismayed as these “intelligent suffragists” don’t seem to think of such problems that may arise from their publishing such stories, even more so by the fact that they don’t even know any lawyers that can help them. I want to rest my head on the table and groan when the sisters decide that they may find a way to stop the lawsuit by proving that the nobleman is involved in cheating their father (and hence “persuading” said nobleman to drop the suit) – this is like wanting to swim the Suez canal to get to the other side when one could just take an airplane there. But I really shriek in pain when they decide that, should they have to confront this bad guy with their “offer”, they cannot reveal in public that the person cheated by this bad guy is their father because their late mother wanted Daddy Most Neglectful to remain blissfully ignorant even as everyone else starves and hence the Duncan daughters must keep up the tradition while keeping their Daddy’s reputation untainted by shame.
Feminist? Suffragist? While living under some delusional martyr act that only enforces the institution of patriarchy? Reading this book, I feel as if I’m privileged to sit in the front seat of a train as it hurtles down the tracks where derailment is imminent.
They later abandon their harebrained schemes to get lawyer Gideon Malvern to help them, but Prudence offers her services to find him a wife in exchange for his aid. (Remember, the sisters have no money – even if Constance is married to a rich nobleman. Now is when the idiots decide to be “feminist”.) Gideon is another jerk that scoffs at the women’s ideas of progress and he goes about in this story acting like a harebrained high-handed idiot. Prudence doesn’t try to stand up to him (she doesn’t want to come off as that man-hating bitch that he calls her, you see) as much as she spends the whole book justifying herself to him, so Gideon has full free rein to do many stupid things here, including taking in his ex-wife in his house when he’s sleeping with Prudence. Prudence may not be a virgin but she’s so irritatingly ignorant or prudish in every other way that counts that her virginity is all but technical. Oh, at the end of the day, Gideon marries her but it’s clear that he doesn’t even respect her or her sisters – he doesn’t even consider that he should get the sisters’ approval to marry Prudence when it’s clear to all that the three sisters are like the hags in Greek mythology, only these sisters share a brain, not an eye, between the three of them.
Imbecile heroines that deliberately make their own lives more difficult than necessary and a plot that only makes a mockery out of the suffragist movement all cause The Bride Hunt to come off as a grotesque parody of the author’s talent. I’d rather be stranded on an island with only a copy of Jane Feather’s Kissed by Shadows to read rather than to subject myself to intelligence-free pap like this one.