The Wedding Trap

The Wife Trap by Tracy Anne Warren
(Ballantine, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-345-48309-X
It always amazes me how an author can create a heroine who is completely obnoxious and then insist that the hero falls for her after one meeting. Based on what? I wonder. It’s a hard sell that almost never works, and The Wife Trap is no exception.

Lady Jeanette Rose Brantford is on her way to relatives in the wilds of Ireland - Ireland!, because her parents have banished her from London for her scandalous behavior. All right, so there was the teensy matter of Jeanette impersonating her twin sister, Violet, and her family was a bit embarrassed by it all, but surely there’s no reason to send her to distant relatives! It’s sure to be boring. And nobody will appreciate her pretty gowns! It’s all too much.

Jeanette’s self-pitying whine-fest is momentarily interrupted when the carriage becomes stuck in the mud. The driver would like to unload everyone in order to get it out, but Jeanette refuses to leave the carriage because her gown might get dirty. A stranger appears and tries to get Jeanette to disembark, but she refuses. Surely he doesn’t expect her to sit on her suitcases in the sun? The man, one Darragh O’Brien, forcibly carries from the carriage, while Jeanette displays all the gratitude of a wet cat, spitting out insults and snottiness in an unending stream.

Jeanette is soon ensconced in her relatives’ home, where a new wing is being constructed to replace the one her cousin accidentally burned down. Cousin Cuthbert is experimenting with early photography, in what turned out to be the only interesting part of the plot. Jeanette, however, is appalled that the workmen have the nerve to actually start working before noon. How can she keep her Town hours and sleep half the day away with all that racket going on?

As it turns out, Darragh O’Brien, who is really an earl, is the architect on the project. Jeanette and Darragh meet again, his dog gets muddy pawprints on her dress, she throws a fit and insists he curb his workmen until at least nine in the morning, and he counter-offers with seven o’clock, all the while musing on what a remarkable, beautiful creature she is. (Bleah.) Jeanette promptly steals his drawings and refuses to give them back, whereupon he climbs into her room when she’s dressed in a nightgown (how many times have we all read this scene?) and they share some hot kisses. Jeanette is perfectly willing, until she remembers that he’s a nobody and she should marry a duke, at least! And throws him out.

Jeanette decides to relieve her unending boredom by doing what every vapid heiress has done since the beginning of time – throw a party. She plans a ball to celebrate the finishing of the new wing. Her sister, who is eight months pregnant with twins, makes a long journey from England to visit (yeah, I didn’t buy it either) and to tell Jeanette that she can come home – all is forgiven. At the ball, Jeanette and Darragh share some more of those hot kisses, and they are caught in a compromising situation. Marriage is the only way out. Jeanette is furious. She should be marrying a duke! (this refrain is repeated throughout the story). Darragh is conveniently interrupted just as he tries to tell her he’s really an earl, and then decides to keep it a secret so Jeanette can learn to love him for himself. (Yawn.)

You know how the rest of it goes, right up to and including the big hissy fit when the truth comes out. Other than Cousin Cuthbert, there is little in this book to set it apart from a hundred others, and the quality of the writing drags it down further. Everything is described in the purplest of detail, even descriptions of how the dog eats. Sentences like “A smile bloomed like a budding rose upon her lips.” just look ridiculous, and there is so much of this kind of overwrought writing, one wonders if the author was trying to fill a word count.

But the biggest problem is the character of Jeanette. As a reader, I am mightily ticked off when I shell out $6.99 on a book to find it’s filled with the self-absorbed tantrums of a whining brat masquerading as a heroine. The fact that Darragh, who appears to be a decent guy, falls for her immediately makes him look thickheaded in the extreme, and it’s hard to have any sympathy whatsoever for him. To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, “Take this heroine – please.”

The Wife Trap might have had a shot at a decent story if it only had a decent conflict and two decent lead characters. But a grown woman who wants to sleep late every day does not a conflict make. Pass this one by.

--Cathy Sova

@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home