Friday, May 25, 2007

A Perfect Groom, by Samantha James [1]

*/***** (1/5)

I really don't why I bother with these, I really don't.

Samantha James' A PERFECT GROOM reads as an immature, contemporary teenie bopper romance, replete with the bets, dances, handsome rogues, ordinary-looking heroines, tempestuous "romance"/relationships, and cliche "plotting" (if you can call it a veritable plot) we're so familiar with. I love how romance authors like to downplay the appearance of their heroines yet make their heroes the "handsomest", tallest, broad-shouldered rogues ever. I think I counted the word "handsomest" used to describe our hero Justin Sterling at least 10 times. Seriously. Not surprisingly, looks don't mean much to our experienced, handsomest rogue in all of England and he pines over our heroine Arabella's feisty "wit." Please, we can use many adjectives to describe Arabella Templeton's behavior, least of all witty. Immature dithering, repetitive and insipid introspection, constant pining over Justin's handsomest appearance, juvenile fits of anger, maybe. Witty? I don't think so.

The author didn't spend much time thinking through the characterizations in A PERFECT GROOM. Around Justin Sterling, the only thing Arabella notices is his handsomest good looks, and tall, imposing size and yet she says she would like more than good looks in an ideal husband. When it's blatantly obvious that Arabella's attraction to Justin rests with Justin's handsomest good looks? Hypocritical much, Arabella? She disparages men who're after beautiful girls, yet she consistently fawns over Justin's "handsomeness", and Justin's only distinction lies with his appearance. Adolescent beyond belief, no serious mature characterization here.

Arabella's vanity and hypocrisy knows no bounds. Despite having a rather ordinary, gangly appearance herself, Arabella actually claims she doesn't want to be the center of attention. Yet, all of Arabella's conversations with her friend Georginia are centered around Arabella's rejections of so many proposals; in essence, centered around Arabella. When Arabella refuses her 4th proposal from a relatively decent and smitten man (Walter), she's more worried about what the ton will say than any real compassion for the man she scoffed. She wants to believe she considers the man's feelings when she rejects his suit, but obviously not, since after rejecting Walter, she's more distressed about gossip related to her 4th rejection exacerbating her reputation from her point of view. She can't choose anyone shorter than her, well, because, that would just be unbecoming. Appearance and vanity clearly DOMINATE Arabella's thoughts, yet she expects her ideal husband to be above of such vain thoughts in his wife. Uhuh, her characterization makes me physically ill, and the author actually lets her get away with it the entire novel.

Justin's demons and wounded past didn't ring true in the least. It's the same 'ole, same 'ole bad childhood boo-hoo-hoo, get over it Justin, man!

The Story.

Justin Sterling returns to London after being on the Continent for his travels and he's greeted at White's by gentlemen wagering to deflower the Toast of the Season, the Unattainable. The Unattainable has already refused 3 suits and promises to break even more hearts. After 5 men enter a wager in which the first to claim the Unattainable's virtue wins the bet, Justin and his friend enter a private wager of their own, doubling the stakes. Only there's a time limit, and Justin must claim the Unattainable's virtue before the other men. Intrigued, oblivious to the identity of the Unattainable and a reputed cad/libertine, Justin agrees and enters the private wager.

When Justin discovers the identity of the Unattainable, he's reminded of the fiery girl who sticks a needle in his shoe and punches him years ago after witnessing his rakehell ways. Our red-haired, freckled heroine hasn't changed much over the years, she's described as someone who says and does what she feels regardless of etiquette. Not a beauty by any stretch of the imagination, our hero Justin immediately finds himself taken by Arabella's so-called "wit" and combative nature.

Imbecile meetings between our lead pair and adolescent introspections ensue, having little point and less entertainment value as Justin implants himself in front of Arabella whether she wants it or not.

To the book's credit, the ending wasn't as beleaguered and prolonged as I'd expect from juvenile, hackneyed stories such as these. Predictably, Arabella discovers of the private wager and after some time, comes to forgive him having fully reformed Justin's rakehell status.

Nothing here, moving on...


Anonymous said...

Dont have much to add.

I read James's latest -- THE SECRET PASSION OF SIMON BLACKWELL. My first and last by her. I should have liked it because I melt for those tormented heroes but it felt very run-of-the-mill, by-the-book so I really couldn't care about the characters.

Life is too short to read mediocre romance authors, you know?

Caine said...

Amen to that.

Seems like Julia Quinn is very popular though I'd lump her in that mediocre-romance-author category (even sub-mediocre). I don't get all the buzz with her. Granted she has a certain knack for humor, but I couldn't stand her characters or her story in THE DUKE AND I.

I don't necessarily mind tormented/tortured heroes, but execution and delivery are key. I thought Gaelen Foley did a reasonably good job showing why her hero in DEVIL TAKES A BRIDE is so tormented. Julia Quinn in THE DUKE AND I and Samantha James in A PERFECT GROOM, not even close, and the resulting hero came across too pining, too weak.

My biggest pet peeve in romance stories: I can't take too much pining from heroes in their thoughts towards the heroine or too much agonizing over their tortured past. Madeline Hunter does a wonderful job showing tormented heroes without making them overly feminine. I think Hunter achieves an ideal balance between sensitivity and toughness in her heroes. Hayden Rothwell, Addis, Rhys all seemed like believable guys in love.

Anonymous said...

Aw, this is gonna be where you and I diverge. I love it when the hero gets all smoopy for the heroine, (altho I understand your peeve about it feminizing the hero). I think Hunter's sensitive, elegant, sensual depiction of how Hayden falls in love with Alexia is one of the many wonderful things about TROS.

Julia Quinn aint my cuppa either but I can understand her popularity. Some readers like very ordinary people that they can relate to and Quinn does this better than most. THE DUKE & I was the first Quinn I ever read and I liked it but the Bridgerton series got old fast.