The School for Brides by Cheryl Ann Smith

April 19, 2011

So you can put the blame on Mame, boys. Put the blame on Mame

I was so looking forward to The School for Brides by debut author Cheryl Ann Smith. The premise was a bit of a stretch - an illegitimate daughter of an ex-courtesan has established a school for women attempting to leave the "business." She is teaching them the respectable side of life, so they can get married and have what every woman wants: a home, family and children. I'm not sure where she draws on her wealth of information, since her upbringing was in a cottage tucked away from other people, but, hey this is Romanceland. Now, is this plot realistic? Get serious! For years I've accepted the saving of the world by the multitude of aristocratic spies - so, I'm open to a dating service for prostitutes/mistresses.

What I'm not open to are some of my hot buttons being pushed. We are about to travel down spoiler territory, I guess. Nicholas, our hero, is set on revenge - he is in a gigantic tizzy! And, an irrational tizzy at that! He blames our heroine, Eva, for the loss of his mistress. She up and married someone who Eva found for her. How dare she! No, no... how dare Eva! Honestly, after just a taste of his personality, I can't say I blame the mistress for running as fast as she could into the arms of a normal man. So, what does this fine example of manly heroes do? First of all, in a snit, he confronts Eva - rants, threatens and is totally unreasonable. Then revenge sinks in and he has her investigated. Now, our hero knows Eva is taking care of her mother. He knows that Eva is in desperate straits. So, what does he do? He buys up all of her debts, then calls them in and if you can't pay you are out on the street. But wait! You can select one of your trainee wife/whores as my new mistress. Oh, you don't want to do that. Well, I can see behind that spinsterish disguise that you are really one hot potato, so, if you submit to me and come to my bed I will wipe out all of your debts. A Snidely Whiplash moment.

Of course, Eva submits to his blackmail and ends up in his bed and has wild passionate sex. He takes her virginity, but oh what the hey. This is not the only time he blackmails her into his bed. And what about Eva? Well, she knows he is dominating but she can't seem to forget those sexual encounters. And let me say this, just because Eva cannot wipe the memory of Nicholas' sexual prowess from her mind, does not balance out his actions.

And, then we have another hot button moment. Why is it that finding out that the woman is somehow connected to nobility makes her ruined, a scandal? She's the same woman she was before he took her to bed - before he had his epiphany about aristocratic whores being a scandal.

Now, before I get carried away with my rant, let me say this: Ms. Smith's writing was not bad and I am not going to give up reading her. It was just that she managed to hit the wrong buttons with Nicholas and his treatment of women. If only he had an epiphany about himself halfway through the book, I might have liked the book better. As it was, I couldn't get past his actions or his attitude.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Hot


Phyl said...

I was looking forward to this one, too. I'm about a third of the way through it and having the same hot button issues. I like the writing, but not the hero. I'd like to read more from this author, but I'm not so sure I'll like this one any more than you did.

SidneyKay said...

Phyl: I'm not ready to give up on this author either. Too bad her first novel had a number of my hot'sss in it. I suspect we are not the only readers that these buttons are going to be an issue with.

Anonymous said...

No doubt about it, the hero is as difficult to swallow as the premise, but it's a bit unfair to call only the hero to account. The heroine has a few deficiencies in character as well. She accepts the challenge without much dithering; her efforts to find another solution are half-hearted because she's interested despite her demurring; she pretty easily gives in to the half-sister's urgings, and vengeance of her own has some influence in the giving-in.

SidneyKay said...

Anony: You are correct about the heroine. And both characters were problematic. However, I focused in on the hero because he pushed more of my buttons than she did...Next time there shall be equal ranting for both characters!!