Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-245178-1
Historical Romance, 2017
Lisa Berne seems to be a debut author. At the very least, she’s a new author to me, and since it’s always nice to have fresh meat on the menu, I make it a point to read You May Kiss the Bride the moment it arrives at my doorstep.
Well, all I can say is that the author’s style reminds me of Eloisa James’s. Oh no, I am not saying that Ms Berne is ripping off the other author, it’s just that, like Ms James, Ms Berne has a way with turn of phrases and adroit observations of her characters’ better aspects as well as absurdities, so there is a lovely kind of charm in the whole narrative. I enjoy reading this book, even if the story itself is the pits. I hope I am making sense here.
Livia Stuart, raised in India but now an orphaned young lady in England, is not a happy lady. Her guardian is broke, so Livia is the object of pity and scorn by the wealthier people around her. Meanwhile, Gabriel Penhollow doesn’t have a title but everyone acts like he’s a duke, the women practically begging him to marry their daughters and what not, and he acts like being a wealthy dude is the most unfortunate lot in the world. Gabriel is being paired off with a lady who treats Livia as her charity/object of scorn, but he can’t shake off his attraction to Livia. They end up getting caught with him inspecting her tonsils up close with his tongue, and he resents being forced to pay the piper and marry the girl. But then she starts wearing expensive dresses and transforms into a swan of the ball, so it’s now a tug of war between his chubby and his pride to see which one will have the upper hand at the end of the day.
The problem with this story is that Livia and Gabriel are relentlessly negative, and this downcast vibe puts a constant dampening on any enthusiasm I may feel while reading this story. I understand why Livia is not happy with her current circumstance, but at the same time, she actively seeks out things to condemn and look down upon. Gabriel is an asshole for the bulk of the story, and he has such a huge better-than-you Ana-Kasparian-with-a-ding-dong chip on his shoulder that I find his entire personality off-putting. He is made even more ugh-worthy by how Livia allows herself to be steamrollered by him for so long. I know, in romance novels, the hero’s pee-pee can move mountains and give any woman religion, but the story is already soaked enough with negativity. I crave some levity to break the moody monotony.
The author furthermore portrays the bulk of the women of the Ton as a singular bunch of bitter, vapid, hateful hags – this is an easy way to big up the heroine, sure, but it also adds to the whole miserable atmosphere of the story, and makes the characters seem even more insufferable in their judgmental nature. Reading this story is too much like watching Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian telling everyone how much smarter and morally superior they are compared to everyone else in this world – it doesn’t matter whether I agree with them or not, I just want to push them off a cliff and wave a handkerchief at them as they drown.
On the bright side, I like Gabriel’s grandmother, who is a more nuanced and balanced character than the hero and the heroine, and as I’ve said, the author’s narrative style appeals to me. It took Eloisa James a while before striking a chord with me, so hopefully the author will also one day do the same. As of now, though, You May Kiss the Bride is a good example of a well-written yet deeply flawed misfire.