The Wedding Bargain
by Victoria Alexander, historical (1999)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80629-0

Maximillian Wells, Earl of Trent and rake extraordinaire, decides to settle down and have babies like a good romance hero, and proposes to the Hellion of Grosvenor Square, Pandora Effington. Pandora refuses, and when Max decides that he's the perfect man for her, she says "Says who, buster!" and challenges him to the twelve labors of Hercules. If he succeeds, she'll marry him. If he fails, she'll choose his bride for him. Everyone step back as Max goes off slaying a Crete bull, taming man-eating horses, killing a Hydra, and entering Hades, and doing other jolly stuff to win Pandora's hand. And Dora doesn't know if she wants him to succeed or fail.

The Wedding Bargain is a fun, light read. Max is a great hero, his outrageous arrogance simply charming. He is quite a smart boy, actually completing the twelve labors in ways both imaginative, funny, and ingenious.

Which is why I wish Max is trying his best to be a hero to someone else but Dora. Dora, as usual, is your misunderstood Emily Post posing as a Hellion (someone ought to make a law that false tomboys should be made illegal). She starts out fun, but ultimately her behavior gets more and more predictable as the story progresses. When she actually gets all jealous over Max's paying more attention to her best friend (when any fool knows he isn't), this woman has crossed the line from being Slightly boring to Cookie cutter material. Pity. And oh, her intelligence degenerates in sync with her spine's detoriation too. At the end of the day the Hellion is reduced to a maternal chalice of stereotypical (wimpy) femininity - a guilt-ridden, indecisive, worrywot, insecure woman. We women have come a long way indeed.

Why bother calling Dora a Hellion? Why not Aspiring Lady Maternal? Then I won't feel cheated. Hellions kick butt and laugh and jump headlong to aid their men. Dora is a wimp. A boring wimp, an even greater crime.

This book has me laughing, no mistake, but it is just that - a pleasant read with little substance, nothing more. It's like a light helping of souffle. If I'm in the mood for a super-duper heavy read that makes me laugh and sigh in misty-eyed emotions, this book won't suffice. It lacks sexual tension.

The Wedding Bargain starts out great and ends up being yet another predictable romance. A pity. If Dora demonstrates more spunk like her best friend Cynthia, I will cheer Max's attentions to her. Instead, I can't help thinking that the man is wasting his time, potential, and virility on this woman. If Jessica from Loretta Chase's Lord Of Scoundrels is in the vicinity, you can bet who Max will choose. As it is, Max has to settle for third, maybe fourth best, you poor man.

Rating: 76

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