At the Bride Hunt Ball

Olivia Parker
June 2008, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Avon, $5.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061355445

Grade: D
Sensuality: Warm

At the Bride Hunt Ball turned out to be a difficult book to grade. I didn't like it, that was plain enough, but I didn't hate it either. In fact, the overall feeling I had while reading the book was, "eh…" A classic "C" reaction and I was all set to go with that. But then I got to the world's sappiest epilogue and that decided it. "D."

Gabriel Devine, the Duke of Wolverest, swears he will never marry. Why? I'm not sure, except that he says he's a perfectionist, knows no woman could ever live up to his standards and so will refrain from putting some poor woman through the effort of even trying. Instead he intends that his younger brother Tristan marry to carry on the line and has hit upon a clever plan to find him a wife: a house party to which seven young ladies and their families have been invited for vetting. At the end of the fortnight, a "winner" will be announced at the closing ball.

Madelyn Haywood is, inexplicably, one of the chosen. She is loath to go, despises the whole sordid set up and is surprised that she, with her propensity for klutziness, was included. She agrees to go only because her evil step-mother is blackmailing her into it and she wants to keep an eye on her friend Charlotte, a nice girl who has a crush on the dissolute Tristan. Charlotte is sure to get her heart broken if Madelyn isn't there to support her.

Bizarre things happen to Madelyn all the time. Klutzy doesn't begin to describe her. Things like this: a bee flies up her dress, then the bee stings her on the butt, whereupon the shock sends her rolling down the hill into a pond. Then there was the time when she was locked in her room, which "forced" her to make a rope out of the bedclothes and climb out the window, where she landed on Gabriel. Of course. Luckily, Gabriel, the perfectionist, finds her refreshing. Go figure.

Madelyn and Gabriel - and, indeed, everyone in the book - are fairly stock characters. We've all seen these people before and I could very easily predict their actions and reactions. They are not offensive, but neither are they anything new, which just added to my overall sense of ennui while reading. There were a few memorable scenes, scenes where I felt a nice connection between Madelyn and Gabriel - like when they waltz in an empty ballroom - but for the most part, meh.

What truly did offend me was the epilogue, and it is that that moved the grade from a C to a D. Take every epilogue cliché you've ever read and plop them all within the space of five pages and you have the At the Bride Hunt Ball epilogue. And a bad ending to an otherwise dull book.

-- Cheryl Sneed

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