Button button, who's got the button!
Yes, there is a rant coming on. I innocently sat down, looking forward to reading a book set in a different time period. Chosen for the Marriage Bed by Anne O'Brien at first glance has a very lovely cover. Nice illustration, lush coloring, nice. But wait! What's that I see? Buttons! Quick! Pull out my history of clothing books... ok, ok, the button has been around for a while, so I can relax. But we all know that once one gets started finding flaws, one continues to look for more. Bingo! What's that I see on the other side of the hero's doublet? Right across from the buttons. Buttonholes? No, no my children. What you see is what appears to be rivets/snaps... something metal. You know what a rivet is, it keeps our clothes together and in case you don't know it was patented in 1884. Yes, fellow romanceland readers 1884 not 1460. I don't know why I'm surprised - after all, we live in a world that passes off Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a thin, black-haired ruler, who was in fact a corpulent red-haired despot. So, why should I expect anything different? I'll tell you why: because Harlequin is making a pretty good living off of me and mostly women like me, and I would think that they would want to be more responsive to their public.
I know, I know, this isn't the first time that a cover on a historical novel has been wrong. And, sorry to say it won't be the last. I also am aware that probably in some photography studio there is a hanger full of theatrical costumes with snaps on them. I just wish that the artist who is responsible for the rendering would take the time to paint/photoshop out those modern conveniences. Obviously no one else at the publishing house is going to do anything about it. Illustrators, raise up! Cast off those shackles! You have a brain! You studied art history! You saw those portraits hanging in museums! NO SNAPS! Click your heels three times and repeat - no snaps, no snaps, no snaps. And while I'm on a roll, what's with the JoAnn fabric braiding on the collar? Plus, the heroine has a shaved head in the book... but, you guessed it... not on the cover. Somehow, I feel insulted by Harlequin, a publishing company who's motto must be: "Oh, just slap any old costume on the cover, they'll never know." Wrong!
Now, to the inside of Chosen for the Marriage Bed. We are going to divide this book into halves. The first half I liked; the second half, not so much. When I started to read this book, I was drawn to the heroine. I really liked her. She was smart, honest, not afraid. Oh sure, she and her maid dabbled in the black arts and she seemed to be just a tiny bit superstitious. We know that because she wears a number of plants and weeds on her person, and we get a detailed description of what these plants and weeds are used for. And, I am willing to accept that people in the 1460's were a tad bit superstitious. However, these superstitions were written in such a way that I thought for a while the book might take a paranormal turn. That wasn't the case. They were written as everyday beliefs, with hardly a raised eyebrow, and I'm not really sure that was the case. So, that part of the book was a little discordant for my brain to handle.
In the first half of the book, our couple meet and marry and get to know each other. I liked the first half couple as they adjusted to each other, talked to each other and were honest with each other. In fact, I was looking forward to seeing where the author would go with the story at this point, because there wasn't any tension being created. Well, the answer wasn't too long in coming. Elizabeth's brother is murdered while the wedding celebration is going on. And Elizabeth's e-v-i-l uncle blames the hero, Richard, for the death. Now, it is at this point that the heroine, whom I liked before, turns into a TSTL heroine. She wants revenge! Revenge! Revenge! And, she doesn't really care who she has to step over to get her revenge. She shoots an arrow at her uncle and gets him in the arm, at a crowded market... with tons of people around. Now, according to the author, this incident is based on a true story. Well, I'm sorry. While this may be based on a true story, that doesn't mean it's not silly. She also at this point becomes a doubter, then she's trusting, then she doubts, then she trusts. I developed whiplash from the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality of the heroine. And then the hero is called away by the king to fight in some big battle, but before he goes his castle is surrounded by men with no banners. He sneaks the women out to a convent, goes to his other estate, gets troops, goes back to the castle, the bad guys are gone, the bad guys are at the convent, the hero goes back to the convent, saves his wife, lets the bad guy go. And, never goes to join the king in battle - that part was sort of forgotten. In fact, there is a new king in the epilogue and the bad guy is still there, alive, having an audience with the king, and then the story ends.
As I said, liked the first half... second half, not so much.
Time: 1460 England
Sensuality Rating: warm