Review: The School for Brides by Cheryl Ann Smith

The School for Brides***Warning***
This review contains spoilers.

I really liked the very beginning of this book. We learned about Eva’s school, designed to help mistresses find someone to marry after they had grown tired of the life or become a bit long in the tooth. That sounds pretty hokey and Disney-ish, but I thought it was presented well. The mistresses were told flat out that the marriages would not be guaranteed love matches and that there would be no matches with the nobility offered up. They needed to keep their goals realistic. And the reason for the men being interested in gaining a wife like that—and with that sort of background—actually made sense.

So that seemed pretty promising. I was kind of nervous about the heroine coming off as unnaturally feminist and modern, but I was willing to go with it. Surprisingly, I was so irritated by other things in this book that the school and Eva’s authentic attitude, or lack thereof, had no impact on me.

The hero bursts into Eva’s life demanding the return of his “property”. His property is, of course, his wayward mistress. She disappeared and left all his gifts to her, completely ignoring the fact that she was “his”. Nicholas hires an investigator and finally tracks her to Eva’s school. He blames Eva, personally, for stealing his perfect mistress after she tells him that said mistress is already married and out of his reach. Nicholas plots to ruin her life to make her suffer the way he’s suffering.

The author flirts with some serious issues in this book, but never gives them the weight they would have needed to actually pull it off. Nicholas bought a large chunk of Eva’s mother’s debt and is calling it in as due. He also got the other creditors to start pushing to be paid immediately as well. His terms were: A new mistress given to him from the bunch she’s trying to teach at the moment, her becoming his mistress, or her forfeiting her house to cover the debt. He didn’t even actually desire these things, he just wanted to twist the knife and make her beg for mercy.

Eva doesn’t own any of those women, so she can’t give them to him–and wouldn’t if she could. She can’t give up the house because her she needs it to continue taking care of her sick mother, so all that leaves is her body. That right there is forced consent and it takes a deft hand to pull that off without making you want scrub yourself clean after reading it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think the author pulled it off at all. She basically just ignored the issue. She made Eva attracted to the hero for no good reason, considering the circumstances, and left it at that, like that solved the issue. If the issue wasn’t going to be treated seriously I wish it would have been skipped all together. Although I don’t enjoy most of the bodice rippers of old, even I can admit that the authors usually did a good job of providing some spark to fascinate the reader enough to pull them into the hero, even while his actions repelled them. That depth and spark was much needed here.

Nicholas was presented as a douche and he stayed a douche. He seemed to genuinely disdain women, and that is an incredibly hard thing to overcome in my eyes. He acted like a spoiled child and threw a tantrum to punish people who really weren’t to blame. The only reason he didn’t go through with his plan to torment the heroine and financially ruin her was because he discovered that there might be something attractive under her disguise. That’s when he started groping her and pushing her to own up to her end of the deal so he wouldn’t ruin her. It’s pretty hard for me to get behind a guy like that. On top of that, the only reason he started to feel bad about having sex with her was when he found out that she was related to nobility as well!

He’d known Eva was the by-blow of a lord, but Crawford had been unable to discover the connection before Nicholas had abruptly ended the investigation.

Now he knew her late father was the late Lord Seymour, an earl of high standing and a peer. He had bedded Eva knowing her mother had been a courtesan. To know half of her bloodline was as old as his own settled a stone in his stomach.

What a prince, eh?

The heroine was no better than the hero. He was a piece of crap, but she was pathetic. Her actions didn’t fit with her beginning characterization, and by the end of the book I didn’t even recognize her. To excuse the hero’s actions in the beginning, Eva was portrayed as captivated by his touch. He threatened her and groped her and yet somehow she still found the time to admire how hot he was. Right… She practically came in her pants every time he looked at her. I found the way she was portrayed and the way she thought incredibly disturbing.

Though she wanted to believe she’d gone to his bed under force and fear of her future, there wasn’t a requirement in the arrangement that she’d actually find pleasure in his arms.

Her pleasure was his gift to her.

She hated His Grace with all of her being–if he were crushed beneath a mail coach, she’d not shed a tear–so why did her body not recoil at his touch?

Worse yet, in the moments after she fled from him and plodded home on Muffin, she’d envied the year Arabella had spent in his bed.

I almost DNF’ed this book many times, but I stuck with it because I really wanted to see if there would be some repentance or even a slight acknowledgment of the wrong that was committed. There wasn’t. By the end the hero and heroine were even playfully joking about him forcing her into his bed. It was disappointing, to say the least.

By the end the book had become rather ridiculous. Nicholas and his mother were cheerfully chatting about his mistress, and various high ranking people were blatantly scheming to get the hero and heroine married. Way too cutesy for me.

The School for Brides by Cheryl Ann Smith
April 5th 2011 by Penguin Group
Historical Romance
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Author’s Website
Purchase Links: Amazon || Book Depository || Barnes & Noble

Comments

  1. says

    Was Nicholas’s infidelity to his wife dealt with? As an author, I read a lot about infidelity being a big no-no in romance, so I’m interested to read that there’s a book flouting such a “rule” (though it seems it didn’t manage this too well, alas).

  2. says

    I am so not reading this book, he sounds like a total ass. And this would be a “scream and then throw it at the wall” book

  3. says

    Shucks, I have this one in my TBR pile. FV I’ve never seen you so out of sorts about a book before. This may be a first!

    Great review ;)

    But… Barrons will always be the ultimate douche.

  4. says

    @blodeuedd: I couldn’t believe him! He was so unpleasant to read about. How do you have a romance hero who doesn’t even seem to like women as a whole?

    @KB/KT Grant: It was me. :) I know, Sophia doesn’t seem the ranty type does she?

  5. says

    @Sophia (FV): Well…I wouldn’t say ever. I’ve been known to be okay with it a time or two in a historical (since they couldn’t easily divorce).

    But rarely, rarely ever between the hero and heroine. It’s easier for me to excuse them cheating with instead of cheating on (although I still prefer neither). I can only think of one offhand that I’ve liked like that.

  6. says

    @Catherine: I don’t like infidelity either and it seems the only time I let character get away with it is in historicals or if it happened in the characters past and they have paid a very dear price and suffered greatly. :)

  7. Sylvia says

    Kudos to you for finishing this book Cahterine and thanks for reviewing it for us. I’m surprised you even gave it one hart.

  8. says

    @Sylvia: Well, I had to rate it somehow. :) The pickings are slim at the bottom, with only DNF or 1 Heart to chose from.

    I finished it and sort of wish I had gone with my first instinct and just DNF’ed it.

  9. Sylvia says

    Hey, I thought I fixed the misspelling of your name…sorry about that.

    Moving on. You guys need a new category.
    May I suggest TOFT (took one for the team), FISYWHT (finished it so you wouldn’t have to) or FINIWMTB (finished it and now I want my time back)?
    Ok, so acronyms are not my forte but you catch my drift, right? ;-)

  10. says

    I have seen nothing but bad reviews for this book. Too bad, really as the premise sounded good. I have it for review but I think I’ll pass. I’d probably just end up with a DNF anyway and why waste my time? Lol

  11. says

    I’ve been on a historical kick lately (don’t have a heart attack FV, it’s probably just a passing fancy, lol) but I don’t think I’ll be picking this one up. I hate heroes that are douchebags with no redeeming characteristics. I hate weak heroines even more. Forced consent? I’m OUT.

  12. says

    It’s a relief to know I wasn’t the only one that struggled with this book. FV, you bucked up more than I did – I couldn’t get through it; I gave up after two attempts. The douchery was too much for me, with too little in redeeming qualities. This book landed in my “Shelf o’ Doom,” likely to gather dust.

  13. says

    I have to say I was relieved to see you post this at Amazon, because when I first posted to Good Reads and Amazon, there was nothing but love and plaudits for the book, and I was wondering, “Am I on crack? Does the book really get better? Does Nicolas turn out not to be a totally sleazy douchebag who uses financial extortion to get what he wants?”

    I chucked the thing after the encounter in the park, because the forced consent thing was so stomach-turning. (I’ve read waaay more graphic incidentally. I mean, I’ve read George RR Martin, for god’s sakes, and he is not precisely nice to his characters, but he’s a good writer who knows how to deal with moral ambiguities. I’m not sure Smith was up to writing a bad boy character that has no redeeming qualities.)

    And as I said on Amazon, if I’d gotten as far as the line where Nicolas bemoans her tender sensibilities only AFTER finding out she was a by-blow of nobility, WELL, that would have been a book throwing moment.

  14. says

    @PixelFish: When I posted it on Amazon I was pretty surprised to see that there was only one other negative review. (which I see now is your review) I honestly expected a lot more than that.

    I agree. It’s all about how you handle it. You can have some pretty crappy things happen, but you have to give your characters more layers and depth than we saw here. It’s like the author wanted to write a light, surface romance, but still include darker elements. Whatever it was meant to be, it didn’t work for me at all.