The Bargain
by Mary Jo Putney, historical (1999)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-19864-6


This is a rewritten edition of her old Regency The Would-be Widow, am I right? I haven't read the original, but I wish I had look it up in UBS, because then I'd pay less for the book and feel happier for it. This book has some wonderful writing, but the heroine, to be blunt, is hogwash.

Lady Jocelyn Kendal, a few weeks short of 25, is horrified when her late father's will is read. She has to marry before her 25th birthday or see her beloved Charlton Abbey fall into the hands of that hag Aunt Elvira! And besides, Jocelyn has had her eye fixed on Rafe, Duke of Candover (and hero of Petals In The Storm - everyone knows each other and we are all one big family and party in Mary Jo Putney's world), and she insists on marrying for true love. She wants to find an old man, marry that hapless man, and hopefully that man would die off, leaving her virtue intact for Rafe's plucking.

At this point I'm ready with my rolling pin. I'm just itching to start a knock-some-sense frenzy when Major David Lancaster comes into the scene. Dear David is very ill. The end may be near and he worries about his sister Sally. When Jocelyn who knows Richard (the hero from The Diabolical Baron) who knows David - like I said, we're all a party - bumps into the dying soldier, it seems like godsend. Will David propose to her? Then she would give Sally, his sister, five hundred pounds a year to set her up. Dear David, even the perfect man, agrees.

David doesn't die off in a few months as is expected. Of course. Now Jocelyn is really stuck in the marriage. Rafe now makes overtures at her, now that she's available for affairs. Jocelyn's heart goes all aflutter, and is torn by guilt throughout the book as she swings between Rafe and David.

I swing between wanting to hurl this book out of the window and continue reading. Jocelyn is a moron, while David is wonderful. I have no idea what Jocelyn see in a cold and callous man like Rafe (no matter how much fun Rafe is in Petals In The Storm - he's actually my least favorite Fallen Angel anyway) who never show anything worthy of her undying loyalty and affection. I have no idea what David sees in a silly, indecisive, and totally immature-for-her-age Jocelyn except for physical beauty. I am not sure why I keep reading this book after a nasty verbal catfight between Sally and Jocelyn takes place early in the book (both of them are twit-brains when it comes to communication).

Wait, I know. Mary Jo Putney's a storytelling genius. There are tender moments between Jocelyn and David, but not enough to redeem this woman in my eyes. A particularly moving scene takes place on the wedding night when he whispers to her, "Please be happy in the future, my dear girl." Jocelyn then kisses his lips and places her flowers on his pillow. Simple but extremely moving. Then it's morning, she's back to Rafe-or-David mode, and I'm back to Crankyland.

David's a wonderful man. A man who has accepted his fate, a man concerned about his sister, a man willing to get an annulment from the woman he loves so that she can go to Scum Candover for true happiness, a man... a saint more like. For the first 100 pages I'm truly in love - vicariously - with David, never a more noble man. For another 100 pages I begin to feel really tired of his aura of martyrdom and godliness. At the third last chapter, he tells her he loves her. She cries, "Why? You can't love me! Nobody can love me because my Mom and Dad destroyed my childhood and hence I'm now a dysfunctional product of a lousy single-parent establishment and unworthy of your love!" (I think that's definitely not a quote verbatim from the book). I cry, "Why? She's such a KLUTZ!"

I keep turning the pages, tolerating Jocelyn's Betty-and-Veronica antics, hoping to find some redeeming tender moments like that wedding night scene. But alas, none. All I get is a rerun of The Martyr and The Bimbo.

Rating: 36


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