The Heiress Bride
The biggest disappointment I felt after reading this book was that it gave ill treatment to a character I had grown to love. In The Heiress Bride, the third and what I thought was the last installment of Coulter’s Bride trilogy, feisty, witty, irreverent Sinjun Sherbrooke gets plunged headfirst into a deep, gray well of dreary treatment and unfairness, and more than one instance of forced lovemaking.
19-year-old Sinjun (Joan is her real name) is finding London society boring and confining until she spots Colin Kinross, a handsome and impoverished Scottish Earl who makes it clear that he needs to marry an heiress (hence the title). Sinjun steps forward, thrusts out her hand, and makes it clear she’s the heiress he should marry. Once recovered from his shock, Colin agrees and they elope to escape the wrath of her brothers, who find them not quite just in time. Sinjun lies, stating that she is already married to Colin, and while the brothers are out the next morning, Sinjun and Colin marry, and have a wedding night I would wish on my worst enemy.
Vere Castle, Colin’s home, is filled with rotting, moldy tapestries, loose steps and nasty relatives, including the odious Aunt Arleth, slightly out-there Serena, and his children by a previous wife (whom Sinjun was not told about, by the way.) These people think nothing of talking about Colin’s alleged infidelities to his first wife in front of the newlyweds.
While Sinjun takes her job as new mistress of Vere Castle seriously and begins renovating in earnest, Colin only berates her for it. He sides with his irritating children when they tell him how she has been mistreating them, when it is plain they are lying. Colin must leave, and leaves his bride at the mercy of aforementioned evil relatives, one of whom nearly succeeds in killing our heroine. He comes back at the last minute, to save her, when he would have done better in refusing to marry her in the first place.
The mystery of who killed Colin’s first wife is almost irrelevant, considering how many nasty people abound. The children, Philip and Dahling (not a nickname, sadly) are annoyingly precocious and quite happy with detailing to their new stepmother how eager they are to send her to heaven. The running theme in the Sherbrooke books, the ghost of the Virgin Bride, is just another add-on, compounded by the appearance of Pearlin’ Jane, the Vere Castle ghost. They are just here to prove that not even supernatural forces can save this book.
Differences are resolved, Colin and Sinjun pledge their love to one another and he, finally, gives her sexual pleasure. But the neat, ribbons-and-bows ending didn’t fool me. The blissful newlyweds blushing as they arrive late to dine with the rest of the family was just too neat for what had happened throughout the book.
Sinjun, the mischief-making imp who memorably jumped on top of new sister-in-law Alexandra (The Sherbrooke Bride) to prevent her from leaving, is no more. In her place is a girl called Joan who tries to fit into the society she’s always rolled her eyes at. The Sinjun we know is spirited and spontaneous, true enough, but not likely to propose marriage to someone she barely knew or to lie to her brothers. The old Sinjun, who once compared a nasty guest of her brother’s to a horse, would not put up with day after day of mistreatment for the sake of a handsome face and very little affection.
Colin, meanwhile, is a Coulter hero we have met before. We’re told that he is honorable, well-meaning and attracted to his wife, but he is the sort of man who thinks nothing of forcing himself on his virgin bride, not once, not twice, but three brutally painful times. He then tells her that he must stop because has no seed left to give her; presumably, he would continue to take her if this were not the case. The time when Colin was shocked by Sinjun’s lack of sensibilities is clearly over.
This is an example of the worst-case scenario that can occur in trilogies. While The Sherbrooke Bride is a Keeper for me, despite some dark slashes here and there, The Hellion Bride wasn’t a story I liked, but I didn’t hate it as I did The Heiress Bride. This was the worst of the worst: a book I wished I hadn’t read.