I’ve seen A.S Fenichel’s name around and am aware of her as an author of historical romance, but haven’t yet got around to reading any of her books, so I nabbed a copy Foolish Bride to see if I might find myself another new(ish) author to trust. But, and to quote Han Solo – “Sometimes, I amaze even myself” with my foolish optimism, because, dear reader, this is a book even a Wookie wouldn’t touch at the end of a ten-foot pole.
The plot is tissue-paper thin, the two central characters are immature, woefully underdeveloped and not at all engaging and the writing is unsophisticated and wooden as well as being far too modern in tone and littered with errors and historical inaccuracies. But before I get to those, here’s the woefully flimsy plot. Sir Michael Rollins and his fiancée, Lady Elinor Burkenstock (which makes me think of shoes), are engaged to be married and their big day is almost upon them. But although he is a knight, Michael is pockets to let, thanks to the irresponsibility of his predecessors and he insists that he must be ‘worthy’ of Elinor before he can marry her. She’s not badly off – her father has recently been granted an earldom – but Michael is proud and doesn’t want to live off his wife. However, he has one last job he must do – which she thinks is to do with commerce, but it quickly becomes clear he’s a spy – and urges her to be patient for the next month while he is away.
Sadly, their reunion is destined not to be, when, a month later, Elinor’s father tells her he’s calling off the wedding. He won’t tell her why, leaving it to her mother to explain that it’s because Michael can no longer give her children. It seems he has sustained an injury of some sort – which is never disclosed, but surely he wasn’t shot in the nads? – which has rendered him impotent. I couldn’t help asking – as, to her credit, did Elinor – how anyone could possibly know such a thing, but there you go; Michael is not prepared to saddle the woman he loves with a man who is no longer whole. They part in anger – but can’t forget each other. And as a side note, we never find out if that final mission made him ‘worthy’ of Elinor or not.
Then the Duke of Middleton (whose first name is Preston – and I’m sorry but all I see is the cyberdog from Wallace and Gromit) starts to take an interest in Elinor – to her mother’s delight – but even though he’s kind, handsome and very personable, Elinor is still in love with Michael. Yet she thinks she might have to marry Middleton after all, because she’s got to marry someone and it’ll get her mother off her case. But – hang on – Michael is a duke now, so surely she can marry him and keep her parents happy? But no. Michael determined not to approach Elinor until he knows if his wedding tackle will ever work again, and she is determined to keep her distance because he’s been such a dickhead to her.
Most of the book consists of Elinor being angry at Michael whenever she sees him, and then moping about how much she wuvs him and wants him back. But having a sensible conversation and thrashing everything out never occurs to them; if it had, I’d have been spared just under three hours of wince-inducing reading.
Fortunately – our lovebirds reconcile somewhere around the middle of the book. Unfortunately – with half a book to go, there’s more craptasticness ahead. Kidnapping. Attempted Murder. Lies. Insanity. At this point the book changes direction and becomes a ‘heroine-in-peril’ story, but I’d lost interest well before then. Had either of the two protagonists been remotely well-drawn or intriguing, I might have maintained at least some level of interest, but they were pretty pathetic and I couldn’t find it in me to give a toss about either of them.
The list of inaccuracies I found is longer than the plot synopsis, so I’m only going to list a few of them here. For one thing, the timeline of the story is all over the place. Michael leaves to go on one last mission, implying that England and France are still at war, yet the war is never mentioned. When he is recovering from his injury and is able to get up, he walks with a pronounced limp and is in pain. Yet not many pages later he’s at a ball asking Elinor to dance. Then his limp returns. Then it disappears. It seems his manly parts are okay after all but he gets a terrible headache whenever he gets an erection (which gives a whole new meaning to ‘not tonight, love, I’ve got a headache’, doesn’t it?). But wait – Elinor’s vagina must be magic, because once he shags her, he doesn’t get the headaches again!
Then there is the party at which one lady plays pieces by Chopin. Who was born in 1810 and who would have been ten at the end of the Regency era. I know he was a genius, but I don’t think he’d written much or had it published by the age of ten. And I really hope that the ‘canopies’ served to the guests at one particular party were caught by the proof-reader, otherwise there would have been several bad cases of indigestion the following morning.
There’s plenty of non-period language and an overall modern feel to the prose, which is workmanlike at best. People say they are ‘okay’ (a word which is thought to have originated in the US in the 1840s) and we’re told, for instance that someone must have “kissed as much ass as a courtesan”. I never knew courtesans liked kissing donkeys (or stupid people), which is what ‘ass’ means in the UK in 2017 just as it did in 1817 (or whenever in the Regency the book is set). At around the 25% mark on my Kindle, I was ready to DNF when the hero – a knight – is informed that he is to receive a dukedom for services rendered to the crown, which is rather a big step up – but that wasn’t the reason my brain baulked at reading any more. No, that was because the information was given to him by a police Inspector. WHAT?! For one thing, this book being set in the Regency period, there was no such thing as a police force and so that rank did not exist. But for another – becoming a duke requires a hell of a lot of legalese and paperwork, as well as being a big rise in status. Surely the king – the next highest rank – or his representative should have told Michael about it, rather than one of his mates telling him, “oh, and by the way…”? These things aren’t hard to find out, which makes such errors all the more unforgivable. Or, in this case, Foolish.
There is more, but I think that’s enough for this review. It’s obvious I’m not going to recommend Foolish Bride; I read books like this so you don’t have to. Give it a wide berth and spend your hard-earned cash on something good instead.