The Bride Price

Anne Mallory
2008, European Historical Romance (1820s England)
Avon, $5.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061579130

Grade: C-
Sensuality: Warm

For a while there, I thought I had a very interesting read when I began The Bride Price, but alas, after a simply fantastic opening, terrible confusion set in. I never bonded with the characters, and closed the book feeling quite disappointed.

In his youth, the Duke of Grandien belonged to a group of wild young bucks known as the Tipping Seven. They caroused around London, drinking, gambling and wenching up a storm before they all eventually settled down. Sebastien Deville is the natural son of the duke and has grown up handsome, charming and as debauched as his sire, if not more so. Grandien sent Sebastien to school and gave him a pittance of an allowance (which he has added to thorough gambling), but otherwise kept him at armís length. Grandien even took over Sebastienís motherís estate Ė the only thing in the world that Sebastein loved. Their relationship is formal and cold as ice.

When the Tipping Seven were in their prime, Prinny was an honorary member and he delighted to cheer them on. Now that he is King George IV, he hatches a plan to rouse Society out of its boredom. He will sponsor a contest for the spare sons and bastards of the members of the Tipping Seven. The winner will get a large cash prize, a title courtesy of His Majesty, the hand of Lady Sarah Pims, the daughter of the Earl of Cheever, one of the Seven and an estate - Roseford Grange which is the estate that Grandien took from Sebastienís mother. If it wasnít for the estate, Sebastien would probably pass on the contest, but for Roseford Ė he will compete.

Lady Sarah is beautiful, and very biddable. She wants to marry for love, but obediently agrees to the terms of the contest. However, her friend Caroline Martin is outraged. Caroline, a widow and distant cousin of the earl, wants Sarah to be allowed to marry a man she loves. She isnít impressed with the contestants and she is especially scornful of Sebastien. But we all know that her impression of him will change, donít we?

The beginning of the book was fantastic. Sebastien was utterly cool, and detached from all emotions. He was scornful of Society, and dared anyone to call him on his wickedness and bad behavior. He reminded me of Johnny Depp as the Earl of Rochester in The Libertine. Sebastien was amoral and if you didnít like it, tough. The only time he softened at all was when he thought of Roseford Grange.

When the book moved to the contest it got terribly muddled. There were a lot of contestants and I longed for a scorecard to tell the bastards from the spares. Other than Sebastien, the rest of the characters were bland and forgettable and the contests werenít all that interesting. I soon entered reading hypnosis and had to backtrack a few times when I realized I had read and read but nothing had registered.

Caroline was a strong character, but she and Sebastien seemed distant and simply not right for each other. I canít say I disliked her, but I never really warmed up to her either. I closed The Bride Price thinking that it was one third fantastic and two thirds meh.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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