There Is Such A Thing As “Too Angsty”
The Bride Finder by Susan Carroll is probably going to stand out in my mind for a while because it is the perfect example for not believing in the hype of random reviews. I started reading the book thinking I would get one thing, but the story was quite another. It came close to what some would call “a wall-banger.”
Despite getting visions of impending doom in the form of a red-haired woman, Anatole St. Leger summons the Bride Finder–who also happens to be the local reverend and a relative–to find him a wife. Armed with St. Leger’s list of wifely qualities that sound more like traits to look for when buying a horse, the reverend heads off to town and finds Madeline Breton who is in dire need of a rich husband. Her parents go through money like water and it would be a social disaster if they could not keep up appearances. Along with the reverend’s creative embellishments on St. Leger’s personality and an out-of-date portrait, Madeline agrees to the marriage. Of course, once she arrives in Cornwall, she discovers that this is all a sham.
Aside from the silly setup that would make anyone who’ve told white lies and uploaded duplicitous pictures of themselves on dating websites proud, Madeline does credibly deal with the weird gothic setting that she’s put herself into. The story would have benefited as well if it had concentrated more on the secondary characters and conflicts–from the mysterious feud the St. Legers had with another family, Anatole’s visions, the bumbling Bride Finder, and even the resident lecherous ghost named Prospero.
What really brought this book down was the character of Anatole St. Leger. Other people might like the idea of the brooding hero–and I agree that one should expect a certain amount of angst in a gothic paranormal. But let’s face it, this guy was just a depressed whiner with mommy issues. I found it both irritating and tedious having to read about this character constantly moaning that his psychic powers were a curse.
A main character doesn’t have to be a nice or reasonable person for me to like a book. But if the writer doesn’t try to convince the reader to sympathize with the character even with all his melodrama, the reader will head to another novel where the angst doesn’t feel like a lecture.
Addendum: I just found out that this book received the RITA award in 1999. Blarg. Just more evidence that winning an award does not mean it’s actually (in my opinion) good.