The Star-Crossed Bride

The Infamous Bride
by Kelly McClymer
(Zebra Ballad, $ 5.99, PG ) ISBN 0-8217-7185-X
The Infamous Bride is one of the most convoluted, uninteresting stories I have read. It feels as if you are reading several short stories, each one with the same character names, but totally different personalities in different settings.

Juliet Fenster is a flirtatious member of the ton, with men falling at her feet. She has convinced herself she wants to marry Lord Freddie Pendrake, who announces his engagement to another. Romeo Hopkins, called R.J. by all and friend to Pendrake, is a serious, staid American who comes to London to escort his stepmother Annabelle and stepsister Susannah on their visit to snare a titled groom for Susannah.

When first we meet the cast, R.J. puts himself in the way of Juliet in her attempt to confront Pendrake about what she perceives as his betrayal. In an effort to protect Freddie, R.J. agrees to come to a party in the country and participate in a play held annually as part of the entertainment.

And what can be more appropriate than the play “Romeo and Juliet”, with our own Romeo and Juliet in the lead roles. During the production, they discover are attracted to each other and are discovered in a compromising situation. They marry to avoid the scandal and convince themselves they are in love.

Upon arrival in Boston, RJ’s home and the place where they will live, we are led to believe that Juliet has transformed herself into a lovable creature who lives to do charity works and brings RJ nothing but happiness. RJ continues his staid ways to impress his father, who is even more uptight than RJ. Stepmother Annabelle takes a strong dislike to Juliet and does everything she can to make Boston society hate the new bride.

Several subplots add confusion to the story including one about RJ’s real mother, who died in disgrace after going insane. Stepsister Susannah loves a doctor, who is her age, but who is married to a prudish and older friend of Annabelle’s. There is the story of an orphanage that gives Juliet something to do during the day. And throughout, RJ and Juliet are learning to live with each other.

As you might guess by the description, there was no rhyme or reason to the characters’ actions and how they all fit together. When I thought I had a handle on the activities going on, the author would switch plot threads for no apparent reason and the characters would act totally different than they had been acting in the scene before.

RJ is a hero this reader could not like, and he has nothing in common with his namesake. In fact, he hates the name Romeo and resents anyone suggesting he is the least bit romantic or sensitive. He is cold and tries to live to please his father. This means he ignores Juliet during the day and wants her to be a subdued, boring homebody. At night, the two act as if they are starved for each other but these love scenes left me cold.

Juliet is a flirt and a scatterbrain one minute, and a levelheaded, sensible businesswoman the next. Both sides of her character appear shallow and she seems very conceited throughout the book. The dialogue she engages in with others is contrived and full of fluff much of the time, with no real point to it. One example of this is several chapters devoted to who will be playing what role in the play, when at the beginning she has decided it will be she and Romeo.

The plot twists are thrown in willy-nilly and give the story an uneven pace and confusing atmosphere. There is a murder/attempted murder scenario thrown in at the end of the book that comes out of the blue and leaves you wondering what other story got mixed up with this one.

There is one scene that sums up this book for me. Juliet and RJ are speaking about Annabelle’s canaries, which she keeps in cages with their wings clipped. They lament that the birds will never fly free and they feel bad for them. Thankfully, my wings are still in working order and I can fly away from this story.

--Shirley Lyons

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