I used to like Catherine Coulter’s books, and The Sherbrooke Bride is one of my all time favorites. When I saw that the latest in the Sherbrooke family saga was available for review, I decided to give it a try, hoping for the best. Instead of a nicely wrapped gift, I read the equivalent of a lump of coal.
Nineteen-year-old Meggie Sherbrooke, trainer of racing cats and daughter of the Reverend Tysen Sherbrooke (of The Scottish Bride)and his first wife Melinda Beatrice, is head over heels in love. The object of her affection is Jeremy Stanton-Greville, her Aunt Sophie’s brother, and now that Meggie is grown up and old enough to marry, she believes her dream is about to come true. That is, until the day that Jeremy shows up with his betrothed, Charlotte. Her young heart broken, Meggie marries Thomas Malcombe, Earl of Lancaster, and after a rather rocky start, they go to live in Pendragon, his castle in Ireland.
At Pendragon, a rotting, filthy old place in need of scrubbing and repair, Meggie meets a vicious older woman (both plot devices shades of The Heiress Bride). The vicious older woman is her mother-in-law, Madeleine, who thinks nothing of insulting Meggie right in front of Thomas. She also meets assorted hangers-on, such as Aunt Libby and her son William, who has gotten in some trouble, and last but not least, the lecherous Lord Kipper. Also as in The Heiress Bride, Meggie is in peril at her new home, and is violently attacked by people who wish her dead. Some of the incidents that occur against poor Meggie, both major and minor, strain credulity at times.
Meggie starts out her marriage behaving like a complete twit toward her husband. Thankfully she grows a bit as the book progresses. For his part, Thomas lets his mother get away with horrible behavior, all the while being sullen and uncommunicative with his new bride when he thinks she’s still in love with Jeremy. His behavior toward Meggie may be understandable in the context of a romance novel, but it sure made me wish for characters who talked to one another about what mattered, particularly since they’re plenty chatty otherwise. As for the “suspense” sub-plot, the villainy was there, but there wasn’t any suspense.
I’d forgotten a few other Coulter trademarks, such as the continuous references to women’s breasts, or “bosoms,” most disturbingly when it’s Uncle Douglas giving his approval of Meggie’s assets at the dressmaker. It’s one thing to have my gay friend in the dressing room helping me choose a dress based on how well it shows off the goods, quite another to have my married uncle commenting on how stacked I am.
Also present are the less-than-stellar wedding night, the illness that requires a character to be wiped all over in order to bring the fever down, and dialogue that can get as thick as oatmeal. Historical background does not have to give rise to unnatural dialogue, but it did here. Having loved author Coulter in the past but not lately, I wanted to give her one last try, and with Pendragon that was definitely accomplished. Next!