The Spy's Bride
by Nita Abrams, historical (2003)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7561-8
Nita Abrams' conclusion to her Napoleon War-era English-Jewish romantic trilogy is more of a stand-alone than the flop The Exiles, but like the previous two books of this trilogy, The Spy's Bride is basically one romantic contrivance made pretty by lots of exciting wartime intrigue. Unfortunately, in this book's case, the contrivance is the ever-painful Miscommunication plot device.
Eloise Bernal marries James Roth Meyer, a wealthy man, to make her grandmother happy. When he proposes that they annul the marriage, she is more than agreeable to it. Unfortunately, there are things that she wants to talk about but the author never let her do, so James end up believing that Eloise is carrying some other man's child. Eloise knows he thinks she is pregnant, but she somehow never has to chance to tell him until it's too late. And by then he has angered her so she won't tell him! James is also a spy who is obsessed with another woman - an Austrian countess who betrayed him - and he will take his wife to France even as he single-mindedly embarks on a mission to locate his Mata Hari. His mental state is a little on the wobbly state after the War. Naturally, he doesn't tell her. Tit for tat, after all. If you don't think that Eloise and James are two of the biggest idiots of the land, wait until you learn that James is a wanted man in France but he happily drags Eloise here to Paris anyway.
Nita Abrams can tell a good action-paced story, so I really enjoy reading this book when it's not focused on the romance. Unfortunately, the main characters' inability to communicate thanks to the author's oh-so-transparent plot contrivances, it's hard not to gnash my teeth in irritation. Eloise isn't a stupid woman, far from it, and James isn't a stupid man. These two don't always do the right things, but who does? It is the author's obvious attempts at prolonging the misunderstandings of her main characters that serve the characters a great injustice. In another story with a better internal conflict, James and Eloise will be really enjoyable strong-willed characters. Ms Abrams gets away with the use of the trite Marriage In Name Only plot device here because James has a really good excuse to bring it up. There are many opportunities to make this story shine, but it's just too bad that the author isn't above dumbing down her plot and characters for the sake of some annoying miscommunication issues.
Ms Abrams can tell a good story, albeit in a little "old school" bombastic epic style at places. Despite my complains and grumbles about The Spy's Bride, I'll be lying if I say I didn't have a good time reading it in one sitting. Hopefully one day she will be able to sustain an intelligent plot thread throughout her book instead of resorting to childish plot contrivances any chimpanzee can see coming from a mile away. Right now, it is only her sweeping, atmospheric storytelling style that is keeping her books afloat.
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