The Forever Bride
by Judith O'Brien, historical (1999)
Sonnet, $6.50, ISBN 0-671-00041-1


It's 1849, in NYC, and everyone's going crazy over spiritualism. Yes! This is yet another story about the fake medium heroine falling in love with skeptical client and finding out eventually that she may not be that much of a fake after all.

This time the heroine Celia Thomason is, however, abetted by her poverty-stricken Aunt Prudence and the staff. Celia is hired by skeptic Brendan O'Neal, who is hoping that she could pull out a few tricks to cheer up his brother-in-law Garrick Stevens. Garrick hasn't been the same since his wife Amanda died in a gaslamp explosion. But yikes, Celia somehow does summon up Amanda, and soon, she and Brendan suspect that Amanda's death may not be so accidental after all.

The tolerance level for this admittedly readable and funny at places story is based on one's tolerance for irritating Big Misunderstandings and a heroine that is the epitome of helpless passivity. Celia is a woman who can't save her life if circumstances require it. She's a fake medium trying to cough up $21,000 or else (her late uncle gambled heavily). Yet she couldn't! Couldn't! Oh the pain! find it in her heart to cheat her rich clients, because that is so wrong. Never mind that three ugly, leering thugs with definitely nasty thoughts in their minds are knocking down the back door, what's a little rape and assault compared to *gasp* trying to survive, eh? Likewise, Celia can't do anything without having a lot of second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth thoughts, ultimately ending up just standing there, holding back tears, when she is finally too late to act and Dire Fates have taken over the course of her life. Passivity and Indecision, thy name is Celia Thomason.

At least Celia is consistently in need of a man to take over her life. Brendan's characterization is utterly schizophrenic. One moment he lusts after her, then decides to lie to her after she got drunk and passes out from champagne. Honey, we Did It, you must get married. Why on earth he doesn't just propose, I have no idea. Oh wait, maybe because if he proposes normally, Big Misunderstanding #3 need not happen. Likewise, he tells himself he loves her in private, only to accuse her of lying, cheating, mercenary, etc when he's with her. Celia, the wimp, would run away in tears, and Brendan would brood - alone - that he loves her. All in readiness for Round Two. Totally exasperating, reading about these two, and ultimately annoying.

The identity of the villain is a complete surprise to me, and the fact that Aunt Prudence isn't the sweet eccentric woman as she seems is interesting, but the two main characters are totally uninteresting. I can just picture Nora Ephron, Queen Of Muzak, making a movie out of this with that irritating Meg Ryan and bland-as-wet-paint Tom Hanks playing Celia and Brendan. Me, no thanks, I'll pass.

Rating: 44


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