A Comfortable Wife
by Stephanie Laurens, historical (2002)
Harlequin, $6.99, ISBN 0-373-83498-5


This is actually a 1997 regency novel of some Cro-Magnon version of Stephanie Laurens' Bar Cynster series, but unless I'm greatly mistaken, the author has done some tinkering before A Comfortable Wife is reissued to give some Harlequin CEO some extra petty cash for lunch.

By tinkering, I don't mean giving the characters extra depths or poignant emotionalism. I think the author just increased the foreplay thing and abuse the use of words like "fate, destiny, bond".

To top it off, the story doesn't make sense. It's an irritating cut-and-paste of clichés that makes sense only if everybody in the Regency era has his or her brain ruined by the mercury in the face cream slapped on the face. Antonia "Oh, this is too easy - Monotonia, anyone?" Mannering is the heroine, and she is beautiful, sexy, and everything. Put her on a seashell and those Italian artists will probably get wet on the spot. But for some reason, nobody wants to marry her, except for Phillip "Brute-van" Ruthvens, whom Mono has a crush on for a long, long time. But Brute is so busy consorting with mean sluts (ie women who have sex a lot and like it very much in romance novels) and other cheapos that he doesn't pay Mono much attention.

I'm not going into the Daddy-luv Mono and the rake-rake-reek Brute characterization, because I don't want to expire from boredom, not when Avon is reissuing Judith Ivory's Black Silk middle of this year. But even a blind, dumb, deaf, and two-thirds comatose drunk chimpanzee can plot out the "characters".

Until they marry. Out of convenience, of course. And all the usual HiLo hilarity that ensues. On one hand, Mono isn't a lilywilt doormat - always a good thing. On the other hand, she has this irritating habit of spying on Brute and his mistresses, and then running away just in time before Brute gives the mistress a brush off ("Can't. Get. Hardon. For. Cheap. Floozies. Anymore. Now. That. Brute. Is. Married."), hence perpetuating everybody's favorite soap operas.

But what gets me is the overreliance on sexy-mexy Brute's sexuality to bludgeon Mono into submission instead of a much-needed talk. When Mono is in tears because she is sure that Brute is shagging his mistresses still, a simple sit-down and reassurance (plus some "I'm sorry") will do. But no, Brute has to sit down and give a lecherous leer as he decides to "pursue" his wife until she "submits" instead. Sex saves the world? Probably, but not at the expense of communication, please.

There is something really unsatisfying reading about a man who brings so much troubles to his not-too-bright wife, only to make it up by heavy and forceful kisses that more often than not only muck up the misunderstandings. There is only so much this author's unconvincing claims of fate-bondage-uxoria-crap can do to convince me that this relationship is a healthy one.

A Comfortable Wife is a six-bit inferior Cynster wannabe. Not that the Cynster series is anything to shout about (when someone compares Laurens to Heyer in Amazon.com, I really want to lie down), but this book makes those books seem like gold.

Which goes to prove, I guess, that Stephanie Laurens books without the multiple orgasms aren't that much use after all.

Rating: 48


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