Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Review: Susan Carroll’s THE BRIDE FINDER - Fascinating Late 18th Century Romance But With a Slow Pace and Issues

This book won the RITA Award for "best novel" in 1999, which I found surprising. The concept for the story is fascinating and the writing good, but I have to say, the delivery on that concept was disappointing and the pace was slow. The heroine and hero were also problematic. About 120 pages in, I started skipping through passages to hurry along the story and kept up that practice through the rest of the book. You get the picture.

Set in Cornwall, likely in the late 18th century (though no date is given, they were wearing wigs and tricornes), this story tells of a family descended from a sorcerer, who live in a mysterious castle bordering the sea, a family with unique powers. They also have a special way of selecting their brides. Each man must marry the mate selected by a "Bride Finder," or face early death and disaster. When the moody, reclusive and troubled Anatole St. Leger, the "dread lord," decides at 29 it's time to marry, he sends the Bride Finder to London to select the right girl. And so it was that Madeline Breton came to Cornwall to meet the man she married by proxy. Fascinated? I was. But all the hints of mystery, a once dead sorcerer haunting a part of the castle, powers aplenty and past rivalries of the various families weren't enough to keep me awake.

A lot of the story is told through narrative and introspection that went on for an awfully long time before something happened. You know, a paragraph of introspection for every line of dialog. The wedding night fiasco didn't seem quite real when you consider this guy, though a troubled lord, was a man of sexual experience. Then, after that, they lived in the castle together for weeks without any physical relationship, which seemed bizarre even though he had this vague plan to gently woo her. I found the heroine bland and timid; the hero vacillated between a strong, blustering male and a week, insecure man. Neither won me over.

Borrowing from the song in Camelot, "How To Handle a Woman," when our hero asks his sorcerer ancestor how to win his bride, he is told "simply love her." Nice advice and he does figure it out, rather suddenly actually. Hard to believe that would ever happen with a man who was rejected by his mother.

It took me three days to get through this book and not because it's 400 pages long. (If it’s good, I can read that in a day…) No, it just proceeds at a slow pace that made it easy to set down. If you don't mind the pace, I can recommend it. Having purchased all three of the books in the trilogy (see list below), I may eventually get around to reading them but I’m in no hurry.

The St. Leger Legacy trilogy:

THE BRIDE FINDER (1998), Anatole and Madeline
THE NIGHT DRIFTER (1998), Lance and Rosalind
MIDNIGHT BRIDE (2001), Valentine (Val) and Kate

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