And The Bride Wore Plaid
by Karen Hawkins, historical (2004)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-051408-6


Is it just me or is Karen Hawkin's plotting ability seems to be regressing with each book? Her first Superleader with Avon is like a Julia Quinn parody, and yes, that is not a compliment. There are rampant clichés all over this story, but when these clichés are examined as a whole, they either don't make sense or they broadcast an insulting message where it's okay for a woman to settle for less in a relationship and still be miraculously rewarded with "true love". Maybe this is propaganda best directed to maids and servants of tyrannical employers, but for a romance novel, it is just not good.

Devon, the latest unmarried hero of the St John family, flees to Kilkairn Castle in Scotland, the home of his friend, to avoid the darned family talisman that has snared two of his brothers into holy matrimony. Of course, I'd flee too as if the hounds of Baskerville is on my trail if I know I'm to be married to a dull cliché, but there is no escape for Devon in Romance Land, especially in Avon, the capital city of Cliché Country. At his buddy's home, he stumbles upon a maid in his bedroom. A maid in a castle! Woo-hoo, that's fair game, right? So our aspiring Bill Clinton immediately puts on the moves. Why Devon doesn't just spend a month in a brothel to escape love is beyond me. Maybe he's just cheap.

Katherine MacDonald is however the half-sister of his buddy Malcolm. But because she is illegitimate and because she was ruined by an affair in the past, she finds solace and redemption in self-depreciation. The bulk of this story is therefore Devon trying to get some stained fabric souvenirs from Kat while Kat saying no until she finally says yes, and then it's love for her while it's time to kill for the reader as everybody waits for Devon to (unconvincingly) come into an uxorious epiphany.

Unless clichés are now synonymous with making sense, very little about the characters is consistent or logical. Kat has experienced what it's like to be the product of an affair or the consequences of a disastrous affair, but when she finally succumbs to Devon, she acts like a stereotypical "sex yes, everything else... whatever!" nitwit. Her protests before this come off suspiciously as obligatory hard-shell on her part. She also actually calls Devon honorable when he tells her, after fooling around with her, that he can't offer her marriage because he believes that his feelings for a woman can't remain constant for longer than two months. Kat is a heroine that has no self-esteem or any sense of self-worth to the point that she really sells herself short in this relationship. It's hard for me to respect this kind of nitwit heroines. Devon doesn't come off as honorable, needless to say, because he's having his jollies with a woman who has more to lose than he. Maybe in some place it's considered "honorable" to tell a woman that you're going to be a tool as well as be one instead of just being a tool, but I haven't heard of that place before.

There are amusing one-liners here and there, but it's hard to care when the hero looks like a toolbox and the heroine a doormat. The secondary romance, between the host Malcolm and his wife, is more interesting because at least that one feels credible and real, unlike the main romance where Devon and Kat are behaving like preprogrammed robots regardless of situation, context, and logic.

An overused premise and an overused setting aside, And The Bride Wore Plaid doesn't even have credible main characters behaving realistically to the situations they are in to make things palatable. This book is an uninspired cobbled-together mish-mash of clichés. Something has somehow short-circuited somewhere and driven out all sense of context during the production stages from the template molding on Ms Hawkin's writing program to the printing of book. The end result is just not good at all.

Rating: 55


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