Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-7771-5
Historical Romance, 2005
To Pleasure a Prince by Sabrina Jeffries is very close to being a wallbanger for me because the hero in this book is truly hard to tolerate and the heroine’s “growing affection” for him comes off like increasing desperation on her part to emulate her martyr-prone romance heroine sisters. On one hand, I try to be patient with this book. I’ve read bad boy heroes who push the limits of acceptable behavior, enjoy these books, and there’s that. But Marcus North isn’t a bad boy as much as he comes off like a snarling caricature, the illegitimate son of the Tasmanian Devil and Wile E Coyote, with absolutely no redeeming feature whatsoever where I am concerned to commend him to anyone other than women who write love letters to men on the death row.
Marcus isn’t abusive, physically, but his actions are so offensive to me because he acts like a ten-year old boy denied his candies. His actions are completely self-absorbed. In fact, I don’t remember encountering any hero as self-absorbed from start to finish like our Viscount Draker here.
Regina Tremaine is our heroine and she has a secret. Maybe I shouldn’t reveal the nature of this secret, so I’ll just say that she has a valid excuse to hope that Marcus’ sister Louisa be the wife to her brother. Marcus believes that her brother has shady reasons to court Louisa, so he opposes the relationship. Being a heroine, Regina naturally confronts Marcus in his place (with a chaperone that she leaves behind in the carriage, of course, because this is the Amanda Quick Law that every romance heroine aspiring for greatness should adhere to). What results is a bargain: she will allow Marcus to court her for a month in return for her brother being allowed to court Louisa.
Oh, Marcus. I don’t know where to start. His overprotectiveness of Louisa is both filled with creepy Freudian undertones and cruel. He thinks that nobody will accept him because he is the son of Prinny and a well-known harlot, so he believes therefore that Louisa will never be accepted in public. That fact that she is doesn’t matter to Marcus, all that matters now is that he knows he is right and one day Louisa will get hurt. This is why, when he descends to town, he humiliates both Louisa and Regina publicly – mind you, in front of everyone – because he is right and people suck. It never occurs to him that people probably can’t stand him because he is a complete asshole devoid of manners. Seriously, it’s not as if he doesn’t know what utensils to use or anything – he’s worse than that. For someone so concerned with Louisa’s reputation, he is her biggest enemy. But of course, Marcus knows he is right, people suck, yadda yadda, so he just keeps on doing what he is doing.
His treatment of Regina is beyond the pale, alternating between pawing her forcefully and, when he’s done having his fun, cruelly ripping her pride to shreds. Why? Because Regina is One of Those People, doncha know. People suck. The whole world is out to get Marcus. His father sucked. His mother sucked. Boo-hoo-hoo! So when people are aghast at his horrific behavior in public, that’s just proof that he’s right and people do suck.
Regina is an intelligent heroine. Her insecurities ring real. However, the author has Regina already scrambling to find any excuse to keep letting Marcus treat her like dirt. Regina holds on to any flimsy evidence that Marcus has some real “goodness” inside him. She lets her family obligation and insecurities force her to keep playing Marcus’ games even when she tells herself that she will no longer succumb to his sexual manipulations (which, of course, she always end up succumbing to). By the time she marries Marcus – again, a situation which she feels she has no choice but to do so – this relationship isn’t romantic as much as it is about a woman forcing herself to play a cruel man’s games.
I keep hoping that Marcus will really, truly grovel, but when he realizes that he wants Regina to stay with him, he decides that he must make her do something related to her secret so that she will stay with him. So once again, even his grand love is all about him. People must do what he wants them to. People must make his life easy. People must do what he wishes if they love him. Or else they suck and he will throw a temper tantrum, wah wah wah. There is an apology, a dismal one in my opinion, towards the end when the heroine is already forgiving him even before he speaks because she is all about understanding the poor little brat who, you know, has his lollypop stolen from him when he was a kid and now he carried a grudge against the world decades later. When I finish this book, I throw my hands up in the air and, eying this book with utter dislike, give it a few hard thwacks of the feather duster just to vent out some of my exasperation that has pooled up in me while reading this book.
I really do like Regina and if I can overlook the hero, To Pleasure a Prince is a pretty well-written book that will appeal tremendously to fans of Amanda Quick. Unfortunately, while I can and have tolerated cruel heroes in the past, Marcus North is a cartoon character with his over-the-top and stupendously tedious “Me, me, me!” whining and utterly childish temper tantrums. He is prone to jumping to wrong conclusions and when he does, his temper tantrums do not discriminate between the victims caught in the crossfire. It is as if this man is completely devoid of self-control or rational thought. I don’t know why Regina even wants anything to do with this man. The author weaves a story that offers her no choice in this matter – Regina has to keep going back to Marcus or there will be no story, so in the end, the whole tale comes off like the exploitation of a romance heroine who lets her own self-imposed obligations and circumstances beyond her control trap her into this mess. Since Regina is truly a likable and intelligent heroine who deserves better than a walking Tasmanian Devil caricature, the story becomes more frustrating to read.
I think the biggest problem I have with this book is that the author doesn’t dare to allow the hero to be held fully accountable for his nonsense. Regina tries too hard to find any excuse to love him, the author tries too hard to shove Marcus’ sad story to my face, but at the end of the day, everyone seems to forget that a rich and titled gentleman who is never wanting for much but throwing temper tantrums and acting churlish left and right – that is not sympathetic, that is pathetic.
Some readers with a higher tolerance for heroes like Marcus may enjoy this book better. The secondary subplot between Louisa and Regina’s brother Foxmoor is infinitely more enjoyable than the trainwreck of a main romantic storyline, but then again, any subplot where the man isn’t acting like a petulant bad-tempered asshole will be better than the trainwreck in question. As it is, I’ll just push this book away and reread some of the author’s previous books while waiting for her next – hopefully better – book.