Oh the pain...er pane!
Arrrggh. There be spoilers ahead.
I was innocently strolling along one day, minding my own business when a friend asked me, "Have you read the latest Celeste Bradley yet?" Knowing my tricky friend as I do, I knew this was not some idle question. I was immediately suspicious. "No, I replied, but I have it in my queue to read." Cryptically she murmured, "I'll be interested in what your opinion is." Uhmmmm. What could she mean? What was in this book that she was waiting to see how I would react? So, I cautiously opened And Then Comes Marriage.
Twins. I hatesssss twins! Could that be what it? Was this what I was supposed to see? Nah, my friend didn't remember that I hatessss twinsssss. Anyway, we have two juvenile acting men, Castor and Pollux Worthington, who happen to be twins. Oh, that wacky Worthington family. There are eight of them by the way, ten if you count the parents, but parents don't usually get their own story. There's Calliope, Lysander, Atalanta, Orion, Elektra, Daedalus and their parents Iris and Archie. As you can tell Iris and Archie are big fans of mythology. Iris also runs around quoting Shakespeare. I hatessss Shakespeare. Anyway, the Worthingtons are a ramshackle lot. Archie and Iris are oblivious parents who are lucky they lived in Regency England and weren't under the watchful eye of some parental authority, because these siblings were on their own.
Next we have our heroine, Miranda, the repressed widow, who when we are first introduced to her is following Pollux Worthington’s tight bum. Little does she realize it's not Pollux's bum she's stalking, but Castor's. She also has no idea that Pollux, who has befriended her, is a twin or from such a raucous family. She just knows that Pollux is starting to make her twitch in places that never twitched before. So, she's sort of shadowing him, or the man she thinks is Pollux. Unbeknownst to her, she has stumbled across the twins and one of their inventions. A steam engine of sorts. It seems that our frivolous tight-butted twins are fledgling inventors. Well, as anyone with any knowledge of history knows, steam engines were not the most reliable of things...they had a tendency to blow up, which is what this one does. Because Miranda is drooling over Castor's tightly encased rear-end, she isn't aware she's in danger until it's too late. But do not fear fair readers, she is saved by Castor, whom she thinks is Pollux. Because she thinks Castor is Pollux, she invites him back to her home and they kiss and she is ecstatic. Castor on the other hand thinks he has found a loosey goosey and is rubbing his hands together in glee. The book at this time was pretty entertaining, because Pollux and Castor both end up courting Miranda. Neither Pollux nor Castor is aware that the other twin is courting Miranda and Miranda isn't aware that there are two of them. She calls them Mr. Worthington, so I didn't have my usual twin masquerade problem with this story. In fact I thought this part of the story was pretty clever. Eventually the twins discover they are both interested in the same woman. After some 'should we shouldn't we' moments, they fess up to Miranda. They also inform her that she must decide which one of them she wants. This isn't as simple as it seems, because on top of the twins competing to win the fair maiden, there are other threads going on in this plot-line. The brothers have a wager with each other, Castor has a secret wager with the Prince of Wales, and Atalanta, our twelve-year-old precocious child, is on a mission to protect her brothers. At this point, the story had the feel of a screwball comedy. The irresponsible brothers were taking turns courting Miranda, fighting over her like two dogs with a bone. Siblings running here and there, butlers sneaking in and out. While I knew Miranda would eventually choose Castor, for a while I wondered if just maybe she might choose Pollux. The twins were featured almost equally in the beginning of the book, so there was a slight question as to which direction Ms. Bradley was taking with our hero. (I use the term hero loosely.)
Then the book took a dark turn and I thought I had been transported back to the days of Sweet Savage Love. Miranda is getting closer to making a choice. Castor, who has been stalking her, misunderstands what he sees. He bursts into her bedchamber and in a fit of jealous rage has his way with her. But, that's ok 'cause she explodes into glorious, rapturous, liberating, splendor - not once but a number of times, against the bedpost (ouch) and against the window pane. Yes folks, I said a window pane, a glass window pane. Now, I don't know about you but at my house glass window panes have been known to break. Apparently Regency England glass was made of sterner stuff. Stuff that doesn't break when someone is thrown against it and then pounded again and again on their journey to Multiple Climaxville. This rather long scene completely stopped me. I'm not sure what the intent of the scene was. I suspect we were supposed to see Castor let loose his wild animal essence and free Miranda from her dull, depressing world. However, all I could see were glass shards flying all over the place and cutting off things that are needed to fill out a dress. Or, maybe we were going to see just how much Miranda trusted Castor not to hurt her. Call me crazy, but being bounced against a glass window would trigger all kinds of fear issues with me. But as distressing as this scene was, it was nothing compared to what was coming down the road.
Evidently Castor, who I was enjoying until the window incident, has a dark side. Of course, you know how he got that dark side don't you? You can blame the old, perverted 40 year old woman who seduced him when he was 15. Because of her he can never luv anyone...he must make Miranda see that he's scary and not to be trusted. Hey, I knew he was scary when he threw her against the glass window pane...but not poor repressed Miranda, evidently. No, she trusts him and she must must must show him she trust him. Besides that her furry woman valley has been engorged and throbbing since her 15 million gazillion explosions - so he must be trustworthy. Arrgh. What we eventually get to read is another scene in which a possessive, raging, domineering Castor subjects Miranda to some pretty rough sex. This scene bothered me a lot. I'm not sure why Ms. Bradley chose to put it in the book. It wasn't romantic, and it didn't fit well with a "Regency Romance" or even any kind of a regular romance. It came awfully close to erotica and not the tame kind of erotica. There is a lot of dominating, twisting of hard nubs, and spanking. Most of that subjugating is done while Miranda is saying "no." I don't have a problem with strong erotica or with an author choosing to write her hero as a sado-masochist, as long as the tone in the rest of the book sets the stage for that. I also have a problem with the word "no" being ignored. The Castor at the beginning of the book and the Castor in the last half of the book didn't match - what I thought was a fun, lighthearted romance with a quirky, whacky family turned into a modern day bodice-ripper.
Then there were other elements added to the story for the purpose of...oh, I don't know, maybe stretching the story out a little longer. First of all we have Miranda's horrible sister-in-law, Constance. For some reason Constance thought when her brother bit the dust he would leave everything to her instead of to his wife. Not sure why she thought that...anyway, Constance is not a happy camper. She is lurking about hoping to catch Miranda in some nefarious position, because there is some silly clause in the will about Miranda losing her property if there is a scandal. There is also another man who is courting Miranda, Mr. Seymour, but he's boring, forgettable and in the pay of Constance - bwah-ha-ha. In a calculated attempt to attract a different audience, we also have a gay dressmaker and his assistant. They love each other, but are afraid to express themselves. Twelve-year-old Atalanta knows that these two men have feelings for each other. What a kid! My eyebrows raised on that one. I did not have a problem with the gay men, but a twelve-year-old in that time period knowing that adults have feelings for each other regardless of whether they are the same sex or not was a real suspension of disbelief. I, of course, am forgetting that Atlanta may have psychic powers...that would maybe account for her all-knowing, all-wise persona. A real stretch.
Bring on the misunderstandings. Both Castor and Miranda had old-fashioned romance novel misunderstandings and they both threw ridiculous silly fits. But Castor had the most outrageous fit moment. After some long, convoluted events he arrives at the conclusion that everyone was colluding against him...especially Miranda and his brother Pollux. What does he do? Why, he does what any romance hero from a 1970 romance would do. He goes to a brothel. That will show them. This is where the evil Constance and her minion Mr. Seymour step in; they send a forged note to Miranda telling her that Castor has been hurt and she needs to come quickly. What address is she sent to? Why the brothel of course. What do her eyes reveal to her when she crashes into the house? Well, of course Castor has a floozy on his lap. Later, for the reader's benefit I'm sure, we find out that Castor was actually in the process of pushing the piece of fluff off of his lap. Oh, the humanity! Miranda is hurt, Castor is shamed, Pollux is sorry...the whole family is depressed.
There is a HEA, but even after pages and pages of grovel from all of the Worthingtons and even with Miranda admitting that some of the misunderstandings were her fault, the last part of this book left me wondering 'what just happened?' What started out as a book with some fun possibilities ended up being a dark story with some really unlikeable people in it. Castor and Pollux, especially, had some major growing up to do and poor old Miranda needed to stand up for herself. This was doubly disappointing because I was unable to finish the first book in the series, When She Said I Do (Calliope's story). I hope the next novel is better, because so far I'm not liking the Worthington series.
Time/Place: Regency England