Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7469-7
Historical Romance, 2003
An author is always taking a gamble when she writes a romance story where the conflict is caused by the hero’s behavior and the heroine’s abettance of his behavior. Some readers may like this story for the manipulative tearjerker effect of the “hero puts heroine through hell before the happy ending” plot, but other readers will be happier to read about an ending where the main characters ended up being cannibalized by pornographically mutated Teletubbies. For Kelly McClymer’s The Twelfth Night Bride, I’m cheering for Tinky Winky to eat them all.
Related to the author’s previous Ballad books, this story starts with our Irish hero Sean McCarthy (whose uncle has negotiated the title of Earl of Blarney for the family, of which Sean now carries the title) slipping into the bed of Kate Fenster so that they can be compromised and she will have to marry him the morning after. But the author tells me that Sean and Kate have some sort of courtship going and Kate isn’t too angry regarding Sean’s manipulation. Very well, if this woman likes what the man did, so be it, I’ll go along with the ride.
Sean wants Kate’s dowry in order to free his sister Bridget from monstrous English men. When he realizes that these English monsters have beaten his teenage sister very badly, he lets his prejudice completely override his senses and ends up more or less abandoning Kate in England. When Kate comes to Ireland to plead her case with him one last time before she files for divorce, that’s when the whole “I hate you because you’re an English” blame game and irrational parochia from Sean begins, culminating in a train wreck of a climax where Sean happens to save Kate’s life because of serendipity and even after that, he gets offended when she rightfully takes him to task for being a useless husband that has broken all his vows made to her on their wedding day. But she still ends up married to him the next chapter and the author assures me in the epilogue that it’s a happily ever after thing. Yeah right. Tinky Winky, go bite those freaks, go!
Sean really infuriates me with his behavior. He initiates the wedding and after he’s gotten what he wanted from Kate, he declares that the marriage is a mistake. Just because Kate is English, he takes everything out on her and blames her for every problem in his life. It gets to a point where Sean comes off like an abusive sociopath instead of a prince charming. Kate is no prize either: she keeps trying to make her wedding with Sean work and to the bitter end, she still sticks with him. She also delights in making tiny little jabs at him for the way he treats her, which makes her a willing codependent partner in this dysfunctional relationship. Sean is abominably selfish and he often whines when he has eaten the cake but can’t have the bakery as well, and he justifies his behavior using the fact that he is Irish and Irishmen are the good guys here. I don’t care if Ms McClymer makes every other English a monster in this story – she still fails to redeem Sean in any way. “I am Irish” is not interchangeable with “Hi, I’m an asshole, love me please”.
It is becoming more rare nowadays for a romance novel to feature internal conflicts separating the couple, but in this case, the author gets carried away with the whole Irishmen can’t do wrong blarney to make this story work with me. Kate, the codependent doormat, may love her man, but if I were her, I’d sign “Eat cow pies and die!” on the raincheck to Sean instead.