The Bride Insists
by Jane Ashford, historical (2014)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-8569-1


This review is going to have some spoilers as I have an issue with the way the author handles some crucial plot development, so you know what to do if you want to read this story some time soon. Well, don't say I didn't warn you.

Claire Greenough is a governess who has long learned how to mask her feelings very well. Her employer and this woman's children make her want to pull every hair from her head, but she knows her place. It's not like she has any better prospects to look forward to, after all. No, wait, scratch that.

Shortly after the story opens, she learns that she has inherited plenty of money and even some property from a great-uncle. There is a catch: the funds are "supervised" by her much-despised cousin who would make sure that she would not receive any money if he can help it. She could make life easier for herself if she gets married, because then her husband would take over the reins of her finances, but how would she find a husband who would not take advantage of the situation?

As it happens, the solicitor that handles this matter also manages the affairs of James Boleigh, Baron Trehearth. Since his father committed suicide, the estate has fallen to pieces, and Jamie spent all his time trying to make things work by... drinking, complaining to his friends, and drinking some more. Maybe he has some plans, I guess, but I'm not given any insight into those plans. He has to agree with Claire's terms, of course, because he needs the money. Can a marriage based on such contractual foundation blossom into true love?

The packaging doesn't mention this, but The Bride Insists has Jamie's alcoholism being a big part of the conflict late in the story. It's hard not to see that coming, though. That guy has an alcoholic beverage in one hand every time he's in the scene... wait, there is one scene in which he is drinking coffee, but that's because he is hung over. Let's just say that boyfriend here is a drunk, a drunk who becomes increasingly mean as the story progresses.

Meanwhile, Claire flutters through the story like Mary Poppins with a working honey pot. She charms the villagers, makes Jamie's creepy siblings - unnaturally precocious, finish each other's sentences, probably skin bunnies in the cellar - docile and friendly, and generally does everything right. She is vulnerable only to Jamie's mighty pee-pee, but then again, since he's her first and only lover, I suspect she's overrating that buffoon's sexual prowess. He's a drunk fool, after all.

And that's the problem right there: Jamie's a drunk fool. He can't do anything right, but at the same time, he resents the wife for being so perfect and being in control of the family finance. Real men don't let their wives wear the trousers at home, after all, you know. Predictably enough, he drinks even more and ends up trying to seize control of his wife's money... while pretending to be all sweet and nice to her.

I don't dislike Jamie, let's make this clear. I pity him. He's a fool, and he lets the bottle control his life. The problem here is that Jamie's drinking habit becomes increasingly out of control, culminating in his betraying his own wife late in the story. The author spends a very long time building up Jamie's problem, and then uses Full House style of resolution to make things right again for the two of them. One hug, and I'm supposed to believe that these two would live happily ever after. Really, just like that!

I'm so glad that Claire understands that Jamie is just being a mean drunk because, I guess, he can't help it and he really doesn't mean to be so bad, but the whole thing seems like excuses used by a woman to enable her partner's bad habits. The guy clearly resents his wife for being better than he is, and he also doesn't take criticism well. Jamie has an ego that is far bigger than his brain, and I have seen how far he can go when he loses his perspective and lets his resentment fester. I don't buy the too-neat, too-brief make-up moment in the last two pages, therefore.

Perhaps an epilogue showing these two being happy would have assuaged my doubts, I don't know. As it is, I close this book wondering how long it will be before he starts beating her. That's not the kind of take-home feeling I'd like to experience from reading a romance novel.

Oh, and the author's head hopping is out of control here. Every time there are two or more people in a scene, the author would hop from one character's head to another character's with every paragraph, to the point that I actually feel something like seasickness and have to read this book only in small doses each time.

All in all, The Bride Insists should have just been re-titled The Bottle Insists. I feel a bit like drinking myself once I'm done with it.

Rating: 59


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