To Wed A Stranger
by Edith Layton, historical (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-050217-7
You know what my problem with this heavily-acclaimed book is? I like my heroines vivacious and wild, I like my heroes roguish yet gallant. I happen to read To Wed A Stranger immediately after Sandy Hingston's The Affair, and let me say that it's like having to eat stale bread after having mind-blowing chandelier-shattering bedspring-breaking wild sex with an insatiable sex machine who looks just like Hugh Jackman. It's somewhat disappointing.
There are authors like Sandy Hingston who let their heroines loosen their hair and run barefoot, scandalous and wild because they really enjoy life. Then there are authors like Jo Beverley, Edith Layton, and too many Regency authors who don't just have their heroines sigh, these heroines bombard me while sighing that they are sighing because they are honorable and virtuous women who will always do the right thing even if they will suffer unnecessary pain and heartache as a result. Authors in the former group tend to write about heroines who love, while authors in the latter group write morality tales about Responsibilities Of Women To Their Father, Sister, Mother, Hero, Brother, and The Unappreciative World, with True Love thrown in as a Grand Prize for the women with the starchiest underwear around.
To make things worse, Edith Layton takes the flirty, flighty Lady Annabelle Wylde, a recurring foil to the brown cow heroines of her previous books, and mutates her into yet another brown cow in To Wed A Stranger. When Annabelle wants to flirt, she - and Ms Layton - quickly reassures me that she just wants to flirt, not do anything more, because she is, I quote, an "honorable woman". Maybe there's an invisible made-in-England Bible Belt waiting to strangle us all if we flirt and more and maybe I am going to hell after this, but I just don't see the point of the author having to bring up the heroine's virtue or her need to do the "right" thing on every darned page. Is that necessary?
Annabelle has wed Miles Croft pretty much on a decision based on a mix of pride (being rejected by so many men do hurt) and impulse. This story sees Miles bringing Annabelle home to the countryside. She at first protests that she just wants to enjoy London, but she soon learns to love the countryside and her sisters, the brown cows that go moo. She learns to be honorable and do the right thing. She learns to have doubts about her self-worth - the author makes her sick and loses much of her vaunted looks - and in the end, she learns that putting the wishes of her husband and her in-laws above her own is the best way to live. She becomes another lifeless woman who keeps going on and on about honor, virtue, and doing the right thing. The heroines of the men that ditched Annabelle, vivacious Annabelle, for - come to think of it, these heroines are all brown cows too - finally comment that Annabelle Wylde has, at last, become a better woman. She has no more independent self-worth and her own honor and virtue are now forever tied up to how well she perceives herself in making everyone she loves happy and pleased forever after. The cows go moo.
This is me reading about a heroine I like being brainwashed by the Cult of the Brown Bovine and this book is the Holy Moo Moo. Sometimes, like this time, it really hurts.
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