Stealing The Bride
by Elizabeth Boyle, historical (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-82090-0


Elizabeth Boyle has a knack for writing swashbuckling and adventure-filled romances. I once predicted that she would give the likes of Marsha Canham the run for their money, but that was a long time ago, sometime around the time when Ms Boyle's debut Brazen Angel knocks me down onto my bum with just how good it is. Now, I don't know. The author's sense of description when it comes to fast-paced scenes is as good as ever, but I wonder just how long more does Ms Boyle expect to get away with her books' plots filled with illogical loopholes?

In the prologue, our heroine Diana Fordham, then nineteen, tries to seek help when her French friend is attacked by brutes. She catches the supposed dandy Temple - the Marquess of Templeton, actually - in the act of kicking some serious butt. She also overhears enough to realize that Temple is not only some Clark Kent Van Damme fellow, he has also helped royalty-loving French emigrants flee France during the revolution. Diana's engaged to Temple's cousin, but... well, you'll learn what happened to that engagement in the author's previous book One Night Of Passion.

Then we go to Chapter One, set ten years later. Diana is determined to make Temple love her or else. Apparently she's been on a serial engagement and de-engagement marathon just to make Temple realize that they're meant together. Her latest Liz Taylor escapade sees her eloping with - no, not a gay husband with shifty eyes, but running off with the most unpleasant one of her suitors. It's probably a bit better than plunging into a pool infested with piranhas hoping the hero will rescue her in time, and who knows, the Amazon is so far away from England. Diana will lose all her money - conned by baddies down at the wharf or pickpocketed by kiddies - if she tries to leave for the Amazons, has to sleep in a seedy inn, et cetera. No, it's better she just runs off to Gretna Green. Besides, there are many inns on the path to Gretna Green for the jolly old Let's Get Compromised While Pretending That We're Married goodies.

Temple sets out to rescue her, naturally, sent by his superior Pymm who needs Temple to... well, let's just say that the plot so far hasn't exactly been the model for logical storytelling everywhere. The whole book, mind you, can be shortened by at least a hundred pages with just one simple conversation. Diana should tell him that she knows his secret and she will love him no matter what, he will tell her that he can't marry her because his father has cut him off, they will both laugh and remember that she is an heiress, and then it'll be this couple racing off to Gretna Green by the end of page 100 and I will be smiling because isn't life - and romance novels - so much better when things are simple? KISS, KISS, people!

But no. Just like how the road to Gretna Green seems to be crawling with evil Frenchies in this book, there are several plot foundations that puzzle me. One, I don't understand how Temple's father expects to get his son in a safer job by cutting off his purse strings. Won't it be easier - and simpler - for a man with political power to get his son transferred or removed? What's the logic of Diana spending ten years playing stupid schoolgirl games with the object of her infatuation? What's wrong with Temple marrying a rich woman whom he has no real objections to? Because these people don't like to do things the KISSy KISSy way, I get instead a long road trip on the way to love or a clue, whichever comes first.

Temple isn't original, but he's a much better character than Diana, whose personality can be summed up as "Unrelentingly Perky". Ms Boyle serves up a pretty readable adventure for her characters on the road to their happily ever after, but not once can I forget that these two people won't have to go through the hassle if they both grow more than a brain cell between them both and talk a little first.

Come on, Ms Boyle. Show us what you can really do, and I don't mean loose plots filled with loopholes. Stealing The Bride may be adequate for any other author out there, but you're supposed to be better than them!

Rating: 68


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