Book Review

Guest Review: Desire’s Bride by Teresa Howard


Title: Desire's Bride
Author: Teresa Howard
Publication Info: Zebra 1992
ISBN: 9780821739730
Genre: Historical: American

This Guest Review is from KKW, who wrote to me about this book because she thought she'd learned about it on Smart Bitches. Alas, we did not have anything about this book in the archives that I could find. BUT NOW WE DO! 

Book Desire's BrideI thought I picked up this book based on a bitchery review, but apparently I was simply enticed by the cover.

Enticing, right?

Desire's Bride by Teresa Howard has an American Civil War reconstruction setting, with a hero named Brad and a heroine whose hair, I mean tresses, are simultaneously raven and flame colored. Much like Bogey and Bacall, she's got it all. Don't understand my dated reference?

Bertie Higgins – Key Largo

You're welcome.

Where were we? Ah yes. My weakness for purple eyed heroines. It makes me giddy. If you don't go in for breathless descriptions and implausible plots, implausible everything, actually, this may not be the book for you. Even if you prefer historical accuracy and minimal adverb usage, however, you might want to make an exception for this book. It contains one of the single most happy making sentences I've read, and I've read a lot. Lowball calculation: 12,626 books. That's a whole bunch of sentences.

Now, I'm not saying this is the best of all those books. It's not even a good book. It's pretty downright terrible. I still enjoyed the hell out of it. Why? The WTFery. The fact that no part of speech goes unmodified. The unadulterated trashiness. The Line.

So Brad (Our Hero) and Kathlyn (Heroine) are on a train. He's cataloging her perfections while she sleeps, which is not at all creepy in the Desire's Brideverse, so don't worry.

She's got the previously mentioned black hair that shimmers with a touch of fire. This provides contrast with her perfect ivory complexion. He can visualize her lavender eyes, and it is worth noting that yes, they are almond shaped, although they are currently closed, as she is sleeping through his perusal of her firm young breasts and impossibly narrow waist and whatnot. This makes possible the sentence we've all been waiting for. Brace yourself, Bridget.

Thick dark lashes rested on her high cheek bones like fuzzy caterpillars floating in a bowl of sweet cream.

You weren't ready, were you?

Go on, read it again.

Thick dark lashes rested on her high cheek bones like fuzzy caterpillars floating in a bowl of sweet cream.

Savor it. Try to encompass it. Bask in the incomprehensibility of life, of the ineffability of art, the fragility – no, not even fragility, the impossibility of sanity. Approached straight on or obliquely, that sentence will provide endless rewards.

And the best part? He thinks this twice. Two times. He's struggling with his attraction (erection) (no, really) so he decides to stop staring at her and instead count sheep, only the sheep have lavender blue eyes.

-eyes a man could happily drown in. Almond-shaped, lavender-blue eyes, surrounded by dark lashes that rested on high cheekbones like fuzzy caterpillars…
Oh hell! It was hopeless. 

On the contrary, Brad. You fantasizing about sheep with caterpillar eyelashes gives me enormous hope. No matter what you're into, don't worry; there's someone for everyone. That's really the moral of the story. Also, it seems in every family there will be two daughters, one of whom is everything nice, who nevertheless is highly sexual but in an instinctual and love-inducing fashion; and the other of whom is a bad, grasping, envy-ridden whore who wants to have The Sex. That take-home lesson is a little muddled, actually. It shows up in three pairs of sisters, so I think it's important, but I don't have a sister myself, so I didn't sweat it.

You may be wondering about the plot. Don't.

Early on Our Hero throws one of his employees out a window for trying to cheat the Heroine on a property deal. At another point he anonymously buys another property so she'll have an adequate inheritance. Then his hotel loses her luggage.

With the loss of her luggage, she had lost her freedom. “My money,” she said simply.

“You mean to tell me that the money you made on the sale of River's Edge was in that valise?” Brad was looking into Kathlyn's eyes, but that was not the picture in his mind. Instead he saw a young boy – the one he paid to throw Kathlyn's bag into the Mississippi River.

With one arrogant gesture, he had taken from Kathlyn everything she owned in the world. And all because he wanted to provide her with a new wardrobe.

Something he was sure she hadn't had since before the war. Well, so much for good intentions. He would replace everything, if only he could find a way to get her to accept it.

“I'd say we have some shopping to do,” he said suddenly.

And…that's it. He loans her money to buy the non-mourning wardrobe he manipulates her into accepting, and then none of this is ever dealt with again. So much for good intentions, indeed.

Plot? There's no time for plot. There's too much random stuff that has to happen. Consequences? We don't need no stinkin consequences. Honesty? Communication? Character development? These words have no place here.

Don't think. Enjoy. There are Indians. Riverboat gamblers. Parakeet murder. See what I'm saying? You don't want to get hung up on what this book is about.

I know people have certain deal breakers, so I'll try to give fair warnings. Starting off with something you've probably figured out, yes, there's a hero named Brad. I've never been able to sit through Rocky Horror and I still find that distracting. Consider yourself warned.

Also, and again you may have sorted this yourself, Our Hero is an asshole. Don't let it bother you. We are not reading romance for the romance here. Unless douchebaggery makes you hot, in which case you are in luck.

The sex scenes are purple, much like our heroine's eyes. Some people think that sort of thing is objectionable, but they're missing out.

They were like tongues of fire. Writhing and flaming, blue-hot waves of energy. They moved together in a dance as old as time itself. Yet the impossible passion they shared was fresh as a newborn babe.

Who could have a problem with that?

There is one attempted rape. It's not so Old Skool it's by Our Hero, who in fact saves her. He does that a lot, as she is terminally TSTL. I find it hard to believe that anyone will be so caught up in this patently false situation as to be upset by it, or capable of identifying with the heroine, but the universe has no truck with predictability.

Don't worry about whether you'll like the heroine, because you won't, but it doesn't matter. She's beyond stupid, beyond insipid, beyond belief. The heroine is Good (apparently intelligence isn't Good) and the villainess is Eeeevil, and it's so relentless it becomes unintentionally hilarious. Even if slut-shaming sets you off, I think it's impossible not to be amused by the unwavering righteousness.

The achingly careful portrayal of the black nanny who is not-a-slave-but-part-of-our-family-because-we're-the-good-kind-of-Southerners might give you a facial tic, and the Indians…ok, yeah, if you are sensitive to things like this it might induce a killing spree, but in this context I found it impossible to take anything seriously.

It's like if Vanity Fair had been written by Dickens. It's not just that the Heroine is no Becky Sharpe, she's as bad as Ethel or Esther or whatever little Miss My Friends Call Me a Ray of Sunshine from Bleak House was named. Moral ambiguity be damned. It's sort of like if you rewrote GWTW and had Rhett end up with Melanie. In fact, it's like someone decided to clean GWTW of inappropriate ideology but just replaced it with worse drivel. Well, that might not be possible. Equivalent drivel.

All the problems in the novel could be solved with a simple conversation, which I know drives many readers crazy. There are multitudinous misunderstandings, not simply one big one (it is insane how long it takes to clear up the biggest misunderstanding). This is because the dialogue is beyond and without reason.

She says something 'sassy' and then he says something condescending. She pretends to be angry so he won't know she wants him. He pretends she wants him so his ego won't be crushed. They almost flounder into mutual comprehension, then one of them changes the subject. And repeat.

Oh, and there's a Plot Moppet. And she goes missing, but I defy you to believe that something bad has happened to her, or to care. I am not a fan of children in romance novels, but this one is an exception. Otherwise, we wouldn't have sentences like this:

Her heart melted and ran down her insides as she looked into the gaze of Brad's precious child.

Has anyone looked in to requiring licensing for metaphors? I guess you'd have to have a functioning government. And the world would be the poorer for it anyway. But throwing around comparisons like that is dangerous. You could hurt someone. I think I broke something. Possibly it melted.

Speaking of things running down one's insides, or inner thighs, as the case may be, the Heroine's deflowering takes place in a greenhouse amidst gardenias. This is referred to repeatedly as their night of gardenias. The word gardenia shows up twenty-four times. It is funny, then tiresome, and then eventually funny again.

…hadn't even fully undressed on their night of gardenias….

… Did she remember their night of gardenias?…

…long ago, on their night of gardenias…

…to what he was referring. Their night of gardenias….

…whispered against her lips, “this time our night of gardenias will…

I'm pretty sure you can guess how that last line ends. This is good, because the ending of this book is so rushed you kind of need to be able to supply your own. The ending is one of those clusterfucks of characters who belong in other novels muscling their way in on someone else's HEA.

If you're currently satiated with the crazysauce, or your time is valuable, or you think words should be used to indicate what they mean instead of being used to pad out the count, then maybe give Desire's Bride a miss.

But know that you are seriously missing out.

This book is available in print AND digital formats from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sasha N. says:

    Every time I read one of these fantastic reviews I sooooooo want to be able to read for the crazy sauce. Just can’t do it.  Dammit.

  2. 2
    Natalie says:

    Oh, KKW, I look forward to any future reviews of crazysauce books you may produce—reading this was a marvelous way to start my day. Sadly, I do think words should be used to indicate what they mean, so I won’t be picking up this book, but I loved reading your review of it.

  3. 3
    Genghis Mom says:

    Now, I’m not one to throw around the term Renaissance Woman, but a Bertie Higgins AND a Vanity Fair reference?!

  4. 4
    JacquiC says:

    This review is a work of art and totally hilarious.  Sounds like this description does NOT apply to the book.  I too love the reviews of the crazysauce books.  Reading the reviews is MUCH better than reading the actual book.

  5. 5
    abby says:

    “Equivalent Drivel” is my new band name.

  6. 6
    Wendy says:

    Haahahahaha!  Oh man. This made me spit tea: “On the contrary, Brad. You fantasizing about sheep with caterpillar eyelashes gives me enormous hope. No matter what you’re into, don’t worry; there’s someone for everyone.”
    Well done. This review was beautiful.

  7. 7
    Suzanne says:

    Thank you, thank you KKW, for soldiering on while millions, perhaps hundreds, could not; for reading this book through to its last cliché, its last trite, over-adjectified phrase (yes, that is likely not a real word, but I’m using it anyway), forging forward despite any hope of encountering a character for whom you could care, or any dialogue that failed to disappoint.

    Because you persevered, I now have a name – Plot Moppet – for every irritating and unnecessary child inserted into and obstructing my enjoyment of perfectly good romances.

    I have developed an unnatural dislike of fuzzy caterpillars, especially in combination with any reference to food. This is a good thing.

    I felt something melt and run down my insides.  That is all.

    I have discovered I need to avoid all offerings from Miss Howard, but also that I need to seek out more of your reviews. Read on, KKW!

  8. 8
    Elyse says:

    Whoa. Just whoa.

    Pardon me for over thinking, but if the caterpillars were floating in a bowl of cream wouldn’t they be…ya know, DEAD?

    Also my keets are horrified about the idea of parakeet murder. Say it isn’t so!

    Awesome review!

  9. 9
    NYC Guest says:

    This made me laugh so hard I cried: “Has anyone looked in to requiring licensing for metaphors? I guess you’d have to have a functioning government.”  Thanks for making my day.  I demand a KKW encore, please!!

  10. 10
    Karenmc says:

    One of my dogs is named Brad. I may have to re-name him.

  11. 11
    kkw says:

    Aw, youse guys are so nice.

    I cannot however take credit for Plot Moppet. That’s all RedHeadedGirl.

  12. 12
    Jamarleo says:

    I loved loved loved this review.  Although, to be honest, you had me at F+.  Plus!  Fabulous stuff.

  13. 13
    sweetsiouxsie says:

    Thanks for the morning entertainment!!!

  14. 14
    Priscilla says:

    Thank you so much for the excellent review.  I laughed out loud, more like gaffawed, at the crazysauce.  Glad most of my co-workers were at lunch.

  15. 15
    Rosa E. says:

    I said “Hell yes!” out loud when I saw an F+ review at the top of the page. And oh boy, this didn’t disappoint. So much crazy.

    Also, I do have one sister, but she’s happily married with three kids. Does that make me the evil skank? Because if so, I have some serious skanking to catch up on. Yoga pants and a Captain America t-shirt doesn’t really scream “brazen hussy.”

    Fuzzy caterpillars, though . . . wow. Just wow. Reminds me of that old joke about the fly in the soup.

  16. 16
    Jennifer Bell says:

    Another classic from Zebra Hartfire. Sara is there any way you could interview the editors or authors who were responsible for this amazing imprint? I for one want to know what they were drinking in the office.

  17. 17
    Lydian says:

    Adored this review. Does KKW have a blog?

  18. 18
    Jenny says:

    Hmm…looks like I’ll be rooting for the “envy-ridden whore who wants to have The Sex.”  No one does villains, or for that matter The Sex, like the F+ treasures.  Crazysauce here I come!  Thanks KKW.

  19. 19
    CarrieS says:

    Dear KKW – I think I love you.  It wasn’t just the caterpillars line that did it – it’s that you thoughtfully typed it out twice so we could really take in the effect.  FABULOUS!

  20. 20
    chacha1 says:

    This review was brilliant.  “Equivalent drivel,” indeed.

  21. 21
    DonnaMarie says:

    I have a very soft spot for the WTF crazysauce due to being a teen-ager when most of it was published, but I have to say that I hold the Zebra imprint responsible for a decades long boycott of historicals.  I don’t know what was in the water in that office, but it would’ve taken scotch in mine to get through another one.  Thank goodness we have KKW to read it for us.

  22. 22
    Anony Miss says:



  23. 23
    azteclady says:

    While I am not in the least tempted to attempt to read this one…

    This review is, as Anony Miss so rightly says, awesomeCREAMsauce (sans caterpillars, if it’s all the same to you).

  24. 24
    Malin says:

    Amazingly funny review. I kept having to read bits of it out loud to my husband, because I was laughing so much. The book seems like a real train wreck, but you write beautifully about it.

  25. 25

    Hold on wait up, Parakeet murder? WTF? I was laughing out loud through this review but i’m still tripped up on who murders a budgie and more importantly—WHY?

  26. 26
    kkw says:

    ‘Why’ is a concept you want to avoid with this book. Why murder a budgie? Why hurt yourself trying to understand?

    In as much as there is a rationale, the eeeevil whorish villainess needs some suble character development, so she poisons helpless parakeets in order to make the heroine suffer. Also to test the efficacy of the arsenic with which she then kills her father.  Sort of a two birds with one stone situation, if you’ll pardon the phrase. Obvious and efficient, now that I stop and think about it.

    I really can’t recommend this book enough. Delicious creamy crazy sauce.

    Awkward segue, but speaking of delicious cream, yes, the caterpillars would be dead. Or dying, which might be worse. Perhaps it’s meant to heighten the fragility? Death is the mother of beauty? No? Best I’ve got.

    And I do not have a blog (second ugliest word in the English language) of my own, although I adore this one.

    When it comes to an explanation for Zebra Heartfire, however… all I can say is the world is ineffable, and sometimes an unexpectedly benevolent place.

  27. 27

    Jesus jumping Christ on a pogo stick, I double-took so hard at that caterpillar sentence that I nearly gave myself whiplash.

    Then I got to the one about her heart melting and running down her insides and OMG OW. That sounds like a life-threatening condition there, Kathlyn honey. Pro tip: by somebody who isn’t Brad, who sounds like he’s got way too much interest in caterpillars.

  28. 28

    AUGH. I meant to tell our dear heroine she needs to get that looked at. Left out an entire sentence there. I think it drowned in the sweet cream.

  29. 29
    Evil K'nitvel says:

    Her heart melted and ran down her insides…

    I read this, and all I could think was,

    (Plot Moppet) + (Violet-eyed Heroine) = (I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!)

  30. 30
    Katie Lynn says:

    This might be the best review I have ever read.

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