Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81820-5
Historical Romance, 2001
So many things are going on in The Marriage Lesson, but nothing actually seems to gel into a cohesive picture. It is as if Victoria Alexander was happily tripping around, gathering all the romance contrivances she could to add into her latest novel. The good people at Avon may as well stamp “For fans who love comfort reads!” on the cover. It will do me a lot of good, at least.
Let’s see. Take one 21-year old “on the shelf, I’m not pretty, I’m so dopey, color me stockings blue” heroine named Marianne. Take her and two more feminine younger sisters and put them under the guardianship of a rake who just want to marry them off ASAP to someone, anybody (okay, not just anybody – the most boring, proper guys alive). The rake, Thomas, doesn’t believe in love and doesn’t want to get married. Marianne just doesn’t want to get married, period. She wants adventures. She writes a weekly anonymous didactic autobiographic stories about her, sorry, an innocent country girl’s falling for her guardian.
Take lots of giddy adventures. Marianne wants to drink and have sex. No she doesn’t. She wants to go horse riding and see seedy London. No she doesn’t. She wants a kiss. No she doesn’t. And so on and on she goes. Thomas wants to have sex too. No he doesn’t. Not with her. He wants her. He wants her married off to someone boring so that he can have sex with someone – anyone. He wants her.
They have sex. He wants to marry her. She wants to marry him. No she doesn’t. She wants to marry him. No she doesn’t. She wouldn’t marry without love. So she won’t marry him. But oh, she, like, so wants to marry him!
Lesson today is this: if you wanna go all cliché and stale, do it with style and panache. Or your works will go down in this reader’s book as complete, nondescript nonentities. Next!