Pandora's Box

Here Comes the Bride

Pamela Morsi
2000, Americana Romance (Turn of the Century Texas)
Avon, $6.99, 349 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061013668

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

There is a staff review of this book as well

In Here Comes the Bride, Pamela Morsi introduces us to Gussie Mudd - a woman who owns her own ice manufacturing company and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. As the book begins she has decided to marry the town barber, Amos Dewey, and she hires the manager of her ice plant, Rome Akers, to pretend to court her in order to make Amos jealous. But as the phony courtship progresses, Rome and Gussie discover that they have a lot in common, and Gussie begins to wonder if perhaps she is pursuing the wrong man.

Blythe:  Pamela Morsi has really made a name for herself writing Americana romance. Every now and then I get tired of dukes and millionaires, and I'll pick up something a little more down to earth. I found Here Comes the Bride to be a fun read.

This is your first book by Morsi, Linda. What did you think?

Linda:  Well, Blythe we are going to differ this month and amazingly it is going to be me who was disappointed. I had heard this author was very humorous, but I frankly just couldn't seem to get into the book and the plot twists were very predictable.

Blythe:  Really? I didn't think the book was laugh-out-loud funny or anything, but I thought it was humorous in a gentle sort of way. I think humor really comes in different packages. A lot of books are funny for their witty banter between the hero and heroine, but here a lot of the humor was situational, like the scene in the state-of-the-art barber chair.

Linda:  Yes, there was humor here and it wasn't a bad read, just a little disappointing. I think part of the problem for me was that the heroine seemed like a woman who had been dropped from the 21st century to the 19th!! Her use of business terms like parameters, profit-loss ratio, loss risk, etc. just didn't make her seem like an "Old West" kind of gal. Her use of business terms was just so modern that it jumped out at me and then she continued in the same vein - sounded like a very modern CEO to me.

Blythe:  I think parameter is actually a fairly old word, although I don't know when it became common to use it in a business sense. I think what might have helped here is if the story had a specific start date at the beginning, so we could know exactly when it was set rather than having to guess.

Linda:  The modern business language might seem like a small complaint, but the problem was that it occurred right at the beginning of the story and made it harder for me to suspend my disbelief and get into the book.

Another problem is that in the opening pages, I didn't find Gussie all that endearing. The way she asked Rome if he had dripped water on her floor had almost a slave/master cast to it and when he humbly pulled out the towels to say he would have wiped up if he had, I thought she should have apologized. But, I did like her much better as we got to know her better.

Also, the original description of the hero did zip for me - baby fine unkempt hair and a handlebar moustache! I was quite relieved that he shaved it off early in the book <g>.

Blythe:  LOL! I too breathed a sigh of relief when he shaved off that mustache - I can't really picture an attractive one on anyone but Rhett Butler.

Linda:  Especially with her description of it being shaped like a smile!

Blythe:  As far as the heroine being ahead of her time, she wasn't actually an old west gal. It's hard to pin down the exact date, but this was definitely twentieth century, or very late nineteenth at the very earliest. For one thing, there is a reference to Theodore Roosevelt, who wasn't a big national figure until the late 1890s. From various references I would place it between 1905 and 1910. To me her business talk seemed perhaps unusual for a woman of the time, but not unheard of.

Linda:  I was thinking it was more like 1880, I suppose if it was later she might not be quite as much a fish out of water, but for some reason that was off-putting to me. I guess this book falls into that large group of "pleasant" reads that I don't remember the plot of the following week! Not bad, just not memorable. I also guess that the buzz online had me expecting Laugh Out Loud funny instead of the gentler humor you mentioned.

I couldn't see what she saw in Amos either. Pansy Richardson was actually the more interesting woman in the book and I did like her story. Also, I thought that the twists in the plot were telegraphed. When Pansy's neighbors caused trouble, I could see it coming a mile away.

Blythe:  Yeah, I could see that one coming, but I didn't think it was predictable in a bad way. I think our differences on this may come down to expectations. It sounds like you had heard a lot about Morsi and were expecting great things. For me Morsi isn't a big favorite or anything, but I find her books to be good comfort reads. I was hoping for a fun, cute story and I felt that Morsi delivered. Like you, though, I liked Pansy slightly better than the heroine.

Linda:  That's funny we both liked the "shady" lady; she was more complex then Gussie, I think. I did admire Gussie for taking her life in her own hands and going after what she wanted even if the "jealousy" game she set up was kind of silly. The other thing that was bothersome was the fact that all of the townspeople were so nasty. Frankly, the way they turned on Rome when he was merely the carrier of bad news made me wish that they would all get their comeuppance. They were not nice people and some of them were downright nasty.

I guess you could call it a "cute story" but it wouldn't be one I would read again. But, I certainly wouldn't tell people not to read it, if they like Americana and gentle, if predictable, humor and plot, they would probably like it more than I.

Blythe:  I didn't think the town people were overly nasty. Their reaction to Rome's news came across, to me, as annoyed, but it seemed to be a heat of the moment thing that they got over fairly quickly.

Actually, I liked the secondary characters. Many Americana writers really blow it when it comes to the secondary characters, making them far too stereotypical. I thought the ones here were cute, but they had some life to them. I also really enjoyed the setting, and I think Morsi did a good job with the details. I loved that the heroine owned an ice company.

Linda:  Yes, the ice company was an original occupation and the detail of daily life was good too. I differ with you on the secondary characters though, most of them just didn't seem like very nice people and such horrid gossips - but then I have never cared for gossiping and perhaps that truly is "small town" behavior. It would have been interesting to have Pansy be the heroine here though don't you think? I read a book by Laura Lee Guhrke, Breathless, where the shady lady was the heroine and it was a fun twist.

Blythe:  I think I would have liked Pansy to be the heroine too. It's not that I didn't like Gussie - I did. But there was something about Pansy that was so intriguing. Perhaps she reminded me a bit of Madeleine from Adele Ashworth's Winter Garden, which we discussed in last month's Pandora. At any rate, I was glad every time she was on stage. I think her relationship with the hero really added to the book. They start out as lovers, but really they are mostly just friends all along.

Linda:  I hadn't made the connection with Madeleine who was certainly more sophisticated than poor Pansy. I loved her love scene with the heretofore, prissy Amos. In fact I think it was the character of Amos who gave me the most trouble. Until Pansy helped open him up, he just didn't seem worth the effort that Gussie was going to to land him - it was obvious Rome was a much better prospect for her. Of course most romances telegraph their plotlines - we always know the hero will get the girl, but it is the "getting" that distinguishes one book from another. To be honest, I was even disappointed with the ending - it just wasn't romantic enough for me.

Blythe:  I also thought Gussie should be smarter than to angle after that stick-in-the-mud Amos, who obviously wasn't the man for her. I was glad that someone brought him down a peg, and I think his scene in the barber chair is one of the best in the book. Both Pansy and Amos lost a spouse they loved, and they each deal with it in different ways. Pansy becomes (for a while) the immoral woman people accuse her of being, while Amos tries to avoid any kind of real human contact.

But what about the hero? What did you think of Rome, Linda?

Linda:  I liked Rome a lot - sometimes Gussie was so obtuse about his good qualities. I also felt she was judgmental and unforgiving about his being involved with Pansy. Perhaps the fact that Gussie wasn't more likable may have been part of my problem with the book. I just couldn't "sink" into this one, seemed more like they were at arms length for me. It is hard to explain but often when I pick up a book I just disappear into the author's world, but this one didn't draw me in like that. It was a pleasant read and I will certainly try some of her others that are sitting in my TBR pile <g>.

Blythe:  I also thought Gussie could have at least listened to Rome - we never see the scene where he explains his relationship with Pansy, do we? I guess I was willing to forgive her for being a little judgmental in this case because she really didn't understand the situation. What I like most about Morsi's books is the settings. I think Americana can be tough to write without resorting to stereotypical characters and cutesy similes. I can't stand it when characters use "hop-toad on a griddle" type talk; it just makes them sound stupid to me. If you're interested in trying other Morsi's I'd recommend The Love Charm. I don't think it is her most popular, but it's my favorite, and it has a quaint Cajun setting.

Linda:  LOL, I have her entire backlist in my TBR pile and this is the first one I have read. As far as Gussie was concerned, the twist with Pansy and Rome was obvious and one could see the dreaded "Big Misunderstanding" followed by the equally dreaded "Separation" coming. I was left with the impression that she was so stubborn she would persist and marry the wrong man.

Instead of using old-fashioned vernacular, I thought Morsi erred on having them speak too modern - when the heroine used the word "parameters" at the beginning; it really pulled me out of the story. I had a similar reaction to Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood where Madelyne thinks about her and Duncan having "shared values." Stuff like that can really pull me out of an otherwise good story.

Blythe:  I didn't so much mind the misunderstanding because it wasn't the entire plot of the book. I am not a big fan of misunderstandings, but this one didn't drag on forever or overshadow other plot elements. But I have to admit, that part did make me a little impatient as well.

Linda:  I agree the Big Misunderstanding and Separation were short-lived. I guess it was inevitable that we would hit a book that you liked much better than I did, and I guess Morsi's fans and fans of western Americana will like it. I think Pansy is worth the price of admission - she is just a wonderful character and I loved her with Amos the ice cube.

Blythe:  Yes, this probably would appeal more to Americana fans. I have enjoyed Morsi's books in the past, as well as those by Stef Ann Holm and some of Stephanie Mittman's. I take it this type of story is perhaps not your favorite?

Linda:  I loved Harmony by Stef Ann Holm, the jock strap scene in that book is one of the funniest I have ever read - I literally fell off the bed. I also like Emma Craig's (aka Alice Duncan) westerns and later 19th century American, which are also often LOL funny and often sweet. But, I do not read as many of this sub-genre; I must admit that I rarely tire of Dukes and millionaires.

So, I guess we split a bit this month but it is interesting neither of us really loved it or hated it - not sure what that says about the book. Perhaps your term of "pleasant" is most accurate.

Blythe:  I think that sounds about right, although I did think it was actually "fun," which is a small step up from pleasant. <g> But I think readers who are already Morsi fans will not be disappointed with it.

Linda:  Well, I guess I could go along with "fun," but not LOL funny <g>.

Before I forget, I also want to comment on the lovely cover and stepback. This book is just gorgeous.

Blythe:  I liked the front better than the stepback, but the front/stepback combination has been nominated for the 2000 Cover Contest.

Linda:  What are we reading next month, Blythe?

Blythe:  Well, next month we are trying something a little different - two series romances, one Harlequin and one Silhouette. The Silhouette is an Intimate Moments called The Temptation of Sean MacNeill by Virginia Kantra, and the Harlequin is a Temptation called Breaking the Rules by Jamie Denton.

Linda:  It will be fun to read some category/series books. I think that there has been so much talk about "cowboys and babies" online that sometimes some wonderful series books don't get the audience they deserve.

Blythe:  I don't read a lot of series romances; part of the problem is that I really don't want to read about cowboys at all, although I don't mind a baby now and then. However, I am open to trying more series authors. I recently discovered Suzanne Brockmann and I really love her books. I am sure there are other good series authors out there and I wouldn't mind discovering them also.

Linda:  I read a lot of series books, I call them popcorn books - they last as long as a movie would. <g> I am constantly amazed at what some authors can do within the formats. So, it will be fun to discuss them and perhaps some favorite series authors as well.

Blythe:  Sounds like fun. "See" you next month.

Linda:  Okay, bye for this month.

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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