Sometimes, I receive email about books that people adored and could not wait to tell me about. Other times, I receive rants about books that made a reader HELLAMAD. Sometimes, the subject line is, “I knew you would understand!” Yup, sure do. Sometimes, books make us mad. That’s why we have Book Rants.
This Book Rant was written by Brenda, who was among the HELLAMAD.
I received an ARC of The Right Bride, by Jennifer Ryan. For the first time in a long time, I did not, could not finish my free read. I got about two thirds into the train wreck and finally snapped myself out of the apparent mind set I had tranced myself into that seemed to be…must…finish…book. This book is a mass o’ mess from the front cover on, and now I need a trance to erase the time and memory I had committed to reading such a crappy presented narrative and plot. And the worst part of this insanely bad book? It is a romance trying to disguise a contest for stupidest protagonist ever in literature. And between the hero and the heroine…it is truly a draw.
Right from the cover I felt the dark forces creeping towards me. No, this isn’t a paranormal, but there is kind of that Alexandra Ivy hot supernatural studmuffin thing going on with the model on the cover. Plus, there is the subtitle, “Book Three: The Hunted Series.” Turns out that the series title is totally at odds with the actual premise of the book, as there is no one hunted or on the prowl. Just some idiot looking for a brain and a woman looking for a measurable emotional IQ. After reading this asinine book I decided that the model on the cover has perfectly captured the old cliche, “Well, at least you’re pretty.”
Next thing that caught my eye: there are 49 chapters. This thing reads kind of like a Harlequin Presents, so you have to figure maybe 250 print pages, maybe 265 tops. 49 freakin’ chapters.
The flimsy plot is as follows: widower Cameron Shaw has decided he needs to marry to provide a mother for his five year old daughter, Emma. He has decided upon Shelly. Actually, Shelly kind of sealed the deal by announcing that she is pregnant, so Cameron is manning up and putting a ring on it. In the meantime, Cameron meets Marti, a lovely and lively lass who, in true Elizabeth Gilbert fashion, has just returned to the States after a year-long around the world sail. On her own yacht. Of course. Boring story condensed: she meets, charms the little girl, has questionably consensual really boring sex with Cameron. Twice. Shelly is not pregnant, and lies incessantly about it. Marti does actually become pregnant, and is accused of lying about it. There’s a gazillionaire dying, assorted friends from previous stories, truly soap opera inspired dramatics, and…I am not sure, because I did not finish. I had to go scrub a toilet. Then clean my oven. Because either of those seemed more fun than reading The Right Bride.
Amazingly, there isn’t even a point where I thought, well, this could be good. It blows chunks from the getgo with a really badly presented first chapter. Oddly, it’s from the point of view of Shelly, the poorly drawn, cliche ridden, gold-digging bad girl with no discernible heart. The incredibly heavy hand of character description proves that she is greedy, selfish, conniving, and, in an odd touch, bulimic. And the bulimia is not used to make her sympathetic or to explain, at least partly, why she is such a complete bitch. It is the icing on the cake of just see how truly awful Shelly is.
We are then introduced to Cameron, who is quite possibly the most brainless hero ever written. The IQ…it is just not there. Which makes it totally unbelievable that he is the President of Merrick Enterprises, a biggo business that does…something. As biggo businesses do. Cameron is about to take Shelly out to dinner for the purpose of introducing her to Emma, his 5 year old plot moppet daughter. Cameron is a widower, and in a huge emotional craphole because in the course of a one night I-need-to-get-laid-because-I’m-a-widower stand with Shelly, he found himself well and truly stuck with a girlfriend. A girlfriend he is too passive aggressive and stupid to jettison from his life.
Let’s be clear here: he doesn’t really like Shelly, his friends don’t like Shelly, and, in thinking of the graciousness and tact of his dead wife, he reflects, “Shelly hadn’t shown that side of herself. If she even had it in her. Sometimes he suspected her of having a hidden agenda.” So of course he calls her, tells her that he is sorry, but he has mistaken his feelings for her and cannot expose his impressionable daughter to a parody of a romance. Not really. That’s what would have happened in a book that made sense. In this story, he has to stick with this planned casual dinner, because he made reservations. And God knows those are set in stone. He stares out into the night, into the moonlit waters and catches, in the deepening night, the blink of a signal from some kind of yachty thing.
Meanwhile, on the yachty thing, Marti, our heroine with low requirements in a partner’s brain power, stares into San Fransisco, home after a year of eat, pray, and loving her way around the globe carefree and unattached. And apparently with limitless credit cards. She is a prolific children’s book author and illustrator, and also runs a world wide conglomerate that apparently makes “land deals” because that is the only kind of information you are given. She stares up the harbor at the office building, unable to glance away…
This actually means nothing, because she is still out kind of far and it’s dark. So it’s time for some series exposition. Numerous people are named and quickly sketched in the most nondescript and clunky manner ever:
“Aunt Elizabeth was married to his boss’s brother-in-law. Cameron had become close with Jenna when she had taken control as CEO of Merrick International several years ago and made him president. Emma was just a baby. He and Emma had moved into a penthouse next door to Jenna and her husband, Jack. Jack’s brother, Sam, lived with Jenna and Jack at the time and they spent many evenings together, especially after Jenna gave birth to twin sons. They were all like one big happy family now.”
Seriously. I read that three times before it made sense. And that is the sum total of any kind of catch up to the framework of the series so far. Not that heinous stupidity needs much of a set up.
Anyhow, Cameron, Shelly, bulemia, plot-moppet, and Eat Pray Love. Here’s where things really sail into total WTF territory. Cameron takes Shelly out to dinner to introduce her to Emma, the plot moppet. He doesn’t love her, or really like her that much, but…sex. So he decides to move ahead with the woman who asks about all of his friend’s financial status, is rude to his daughter, and unkind to everyone she meets, because (and I am not making this up) she promises to wear that special pink negligee he likes. Well, then. A daughter with a future that will be spent in massive therapy is certainly worth THAT.
Anyhow, the big intro dinner is a disaster. Shelly is rude to all of Cameron’s friends, and offers a small glimpse of the hellacious step mother she would be. She berates Emma, basically for being 5. In the midst of shrieking at les moppet, she attracts the attention of Marti, also in the restaurant for dinner. Marti’s soft heart can’t stand to see a child mistreated and she steps in, comforting Emma and generally leading a public mob against Shelly and her nefarious designs on anyone with money. Cameron is finally waking up to the nightmare he is walking into, he’s coming to his senses, the dark forces are receding…and Shelly, feeling all those rich people perks slipping away, announces that she is pregnant.
I really truly absolutely hate the fake pregnancy complication in any kind of storyline, and it’s handled atrociously here, even by the low bar I have already set for this book. And this pivotal point is what truly proves that Cameron is as dumb as a sack of hair. Any thinking person would respond to that announcement with something along the lines of a demand to see the stick, medical report, dead rabbit, or whatever was used to determine that something is indeed swimming in a murky gene pool. Cameron yackity yacks briefly about needing some proof but the noises are minimal and drowned out by the swishing noises of the last of his common sense being flushed away.
Yada yada yada, this is pretty much the book. He falls for Marti the perfect and proceeds to treat her like crap. Shelly is a bitch who dodges every single demand for proof that she is pregnant. Cameron’s friends all, without fail, point out that Shelly is lying and there is no baby, and everyone whines. A wedding date is set, and there is also a benevolent gazillionaire who is dying and trying to make things work out for Cameron and Marti. There is a disastrous accident aboard a yacht that involves Emma being tossed into shark infested waters and Marti diving in to save her, after Shelly abandons her one responsibility of keeping an eye on Emma while they are fishing.
At this point, this is a bad book. Badly plotted, badly executed, bad, bad, bad. What made it a heinous book are the following two plot points:
1) One evening, Marti agrees to babysit Emma while Cameron goes out. When he comes home, Marti and Emma are asleep in his bed. He climbs in bed with them and goes to sleep. Marti wakes up in the morning just in time to find Emma out of the room and Cameron, naked, about to slide his joystick into her Xbox. I have never, one time, read the “she woke up from a normal sleep in the midst of boinking” scenario and found it remotely believable, and this scene only reinforces my intense dislike of that cliche. It’s borderline consensual and insulting within the framework of a romance. Even if one of the partners has a vacuum between his ears. This proceeds a badly written love scene that mercifully only lasts a few purple paragraphs.
And you know what happens from “I Woke Up Boinking” sex: a real pregnancy. Of course. And when Marti tells Cameron, he accuses her of lying. Because that’s what women do. Except for Shelly. There must be magic fairies and unicorns in that hoohoo because it’s well and truly got Cameron hyp-mo-tized. This barfalicious bit of tomfoolerie is followed by:
2) Marti enters the house in time to see Shelly and Emma, fighting at the top of a long flight of stairs. Marti runs up the stairs, tugs Emma away from Shelly, and is pushed and falls down the stairs. Cameron walks in to find Marti, shoulder and knee dislocated, concussed, unable to move, in a heap at the bottom of the stairs and he runs past her and up the stairs to comfort Shelly, who must be stressed from the ordeal of…pushing a pregnant woman down a flight of stairs. Shelly screams that Marti tried to kill her, and Cameron pats her on the head and escorts her to her room to rest after this horrible event, leaving the pregnant wounded woman lying in a twisted pile on the floor. Someone arranges for an ambulence, Marti is admitted to the hospital, and Cameron visits her long enough to scream at her for trying to hurt his poor fake pregnant fiancee. And this, my friends, is where I closed the book. And frankly, I feel as stupid as Cameron comes across for reading it this far.
I can suspend a lot of disbelief if the idea is presented in an entertaining way. There is nothing entertaining about this book. I am assuming, as it is a romance, that Marti and Cameron end up together and that is what makes Marti every bit as idiotic as Cameron is. At the point I quit reading, I found myself rooting for Shelly, and that’s just messed up.
I’ve read some bad books, but in some kind of alternate universe where March Madness brackets are set up to determine the worst bad book ever, I may have found the champion in The Right Bride.
I asked Brenda if she ultimately finished it, and this was her reply:
I did not finish it, because to see Marti end up with a guy who had gone way beyond the acceptable booboo line just would make me sad. I just could not stand the hero in The Right Bride. I have read well-written stories with heroes who left such toxic messes that all around them wore hazmat suits, and somehow the passage of their redemption is presented in a way that the reader buys it (i.e. Lisa Kleypas’ The Devil in Winter).
I have never plowed through a story where the guy messes up to this scale and remains the hero. No fairy godmother, no Clinton Kelly makeover, no spin doctor is going to ever make his actions forgivable.
There is a great collection of four Shakespeare presentations called Shakespeare Retold, in which four of his most famous plays are modernized. One is Much Ado About Nothing, with Damien Lewis as Benedict. This is my favorite Shakespeare, and this presentation updates it nicely. My only quibble with the play is that Hero ever took Claudio back, seeing as how he called her a whore in front of God and seven others on their wedding day at the altar. In the update, Hero, (played by Billie Piper) tells Claudio she doesn’t think she can forgive him, maybe someday, but that the two of them? That is done. Because she does have a brain and self respect and he is a weenie.
And that is what makes The Right Bride the worst book I have read, and Cameron the losiest of the losers. It’s my letter and I can create words.