Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0874-3
Historical Romance, 2011
Tamara Lejeune, it seems, can be a very wildly inconsistent author. When she is good, she is very good. But when she is bad, it feels as if I’m trapped in a bad comedy that just won’t end. There is no rhyme or reason to the author’s lack of consistency, and gee, how unfortunate indeed that The Pleasure of Bedding a Baroness is simply the worst book the author has ever served up in recent memory.
This one is an ensemble comedy, relying heavily on mistaken identities and people behaving stupidly for the laugh, and, after a while, it does seem as if the hero and the heroine have more personal interactions with various secondary characters than with each other. So bear with me as I try to give a coherent synopsis of this story. Not only can the plot be utterly ridiculous, the heroine Patience Waverly makes me see red so often that the mere act of mentioning her name can drive me this close into make incoherent sounds of agony.
Patience and her younger twin sister Prudence arrive in London to claim an inheritance from a hitherto unknown relative. Prudence is hoping to use their wealth to live life to the fullest as the new diamond of first water, but unfortunately for her, her elder sister displays a miserly streak that could make Ebeneezer Scrooge wet his adult diapers in delirious envy. Patience is what I’d call a heroine in name only – she is so obnoxiously vile that I can only wonder why nobody has smothered her with a pillow when she was a child. She is insanely xenophobic, constantly telling the native aristocrats that there is nothing wrong in America and, thus, America is always superior to England in a thousand million ways. She is rabidly “democratic”, insisting on repairing her own socks and joining her household staff’s social events, while at the same time pettily refusing to indulge even an extra penny on her sister’s desire to, you know, live like a rich young lady. Buying a carriage to attend a party when one can rent a hackney! Wearing new clothes instead of their old clothes to that party! Then again, Patience finds the idea of attending parties absurd. And since she doesn’t want to get married to anyone, she has no idea why Prudence would want to find a husband. Everything is about Patience, after all, and how horrible is Prudence to even want to have a life of her own that does not involve begging Patience to give her the money to buy a new dress!
Seriously, I can’t imagine why nobody hasn’t placed a pillow over Patience’s face while she is asleep and sit on that pillow.
Patience is also excruciatingly gullible, and her gullibility allows the various secondary characters to run rings around her, convincing her that the hero is a serial rapist who is never punished because England is a horrible land that mistreats the non-titled people. Additionally, Patience is shrill, shrewish, and obnoxiously rude, to the point of deliberately not showing up at a party thrown in her honor by the woman she supposedly adores because Patience wants to make a point about how she is too smart and too good to consort with vile English people who are beneath her in so many ways. Unsurprisingly, Patience has no sense of humor, is unable to detect sarcasm, takes everything at face value, and generally displaying the intelligence of a gnat while claiming to be the light of virtue solely because she happens to be conceived when two people decide to shag and make a baby in America. And no, Patience doesn’t grow up or change in this story – she’s like this all the way to the last page, so if you are prone to nosebleed, be ready to stuff plenty of tissue papers up your nostrils while you are reading this book.
I suspect that Patience won’t die even if an elephant sits on that pillow while it is on her face. A creature this vile must surely be animated by demonic powers.
As for the hero, Max Purefoy, well, he’s much better in comparison to Patience. Then again, I suspect a rabid serial ankle-biting bulldog will seem sanguine and agreeable next to Patience. Max just treats women beneath his notice like disposable crap while inexplicably deciding to shower his finer feelings on Patience. When he thinks that she’s an actress hired to attend his orgy, he has no qualms about tossing her into the pool and nearly drowning her – heaven forbid an untitled lady to say no to a nobleman’s sexual advances, after all – but once he learns that Patience is a titled lady, he’s all charming manners. The author doesn’t succeed in convincing me that Max is sincere in his attentions on Patience. After all, the tiger doesn’t change its stripes that easily.
So, what is the plot of this story, you ask? Simply put, it’s about various cunning secondary characters and Prudence running circles around Patience with their manipulation of her as they try to get their hands on Max’s pedigreed pee-pee or her fortune, and Patience buying even the most obvious lie and treating Max like dirt even as he tries to keep getting his hands and various parts of his anatomy into close contact with her. These “villains” are so much smarter than Max and Patience combined, so it’s actually quite disheartening to see the author portraying intelligence and cunning as villainous traits. But at the same time, she also has Max occasionally mocking Patience’s gullibility, so perhaps Ms Lejeune is not completely unaware of her heroine’s flaws. Still, the author celebrates the hero’s Madonna/Whore complex and Patience’s… everything… as something good and admirable.
I’d suggest that people who don’t like stories that rely on the main characters, especially the heroine, behaving like brain-damaged dingbats to deliver the goods to avoid this one like it contains the plague. Seriously, Patience is so vile and despicable in this story, I have no idea why anyone would even imagine that it is a good idea to give her a happy ending. The only way this story could have redeemed itself is by having Patience encounter Jason Voorhess in an elevator, but no, she has to get her man and have the last word about how England should abolish its aristocracy. God.