>> Monday, August 13, 2007
TITLE: The Changeling Bride (excerpt, extras)
AUTHOR: Lisa Cach
SETTING: Present day and then 1790s England
TYPE: Time travel
REASON FOR READING: I originally bought it because of the DIK review at AAR , but that was back in 2001, before I came to realize time travels aren't really my thing. So it languished in my TBR until last week, when I picked it up because I'd read two really good Lisa Cach books in a row and felt like reading one more.
A Midsummer Night's PrayerTHE PLOT: Wilhelmina March is stuck in a dead-end job and tired of too many disastrous dates. When a strange homeless woman forces a coupon for a free husband on her, Elle thinks it's a joke. However, after a particularly frustrating experience with a guy her brother tried to set her up with, Elle is fed up and half-jokingly screams to the heavens that she wants that free husband. She wants a civilized guy with a big house, one who won't expect her to love him.
In order to procure the cash necessary to rebuild his estate, the Earl of Allsbrook decided to barter his title and his future: He would marry the willful daughter of a wealthy merchant. True, she was pleasing in form and face, and she had an eye for fashion. Still, deep in his heart, Henry wished for a happy marriage.
A Lifetime of Ecstasy
Wilhelmina March was leery of the importance her brother put upon marriage, and she certainly never dreamed of being wed to an earl in Georgian England -- or of the fairy debt that gave her just such an opportunity. But suddenly, with one sweet kiss in a long-ago time and a faraway place, Elle wondered if the much ado was about something after all.
Well, she gets it, only not exactly as she would have expected. Fairies transport her to the 1790s and susbstitute her for Eleanor Moore, a rich merchant's daughter who's died of the flu and looks exactly like Elle. Eleanor is about to be forced by her father into a marriage of convenience with Henry, Earl of Allsbrook, an impoverished nobleman who has decided to trade his title for the riches to put his estate to rights. Elle is sure that she'll be transported back into her life once the wedding is over (after all, that would be just enough to give her that husband she wished for), but she's not, and now she must face the consequences.
Henry is surprised when his new wife seems nothing like the angry woman he met when they got betrothed, who threatened to make his life hell if he insisted on marrying her. She seems much kinder, even though she's got some very weird and innovative ideas!
MY THOUGHTS: This one started out quite well and had me actually enjoying the time-travel aspects, but it pretty much derailed at the end. Or rather, it started out bad, because I was pissed off about the demonization of Eleanor (she's supposed to be this awful person for not wanting to marry Henry... basically, for not wanting to be sold by her father for a title, not wanting to be sold to a man who'd sell his title for money. I very much sympathized with her, instead), but soon improved dramatically.
I think what I liked best was that the heroine's reactions to being suddenly transported over 200 years to the past really rang true. Some many heroines in T-T books seem to take things in their stride, but not Elle. It's not easy for her to adapt. The clothes are tight and her corsets are excrutiatingly painful, peeing in a chamber pot in her bedroom icks her out, her maid looks at her strangely for wanting to bathe every day, sidesaddles are uncomfortable, even for a woman who actually knows how to ride (astride, of course). As for women's health issues, those are beyond awful. No tampons (I'd curl up and die right then) and even worse, no birth control.
Which brings us to one of the main conflicts in the story. Elle finds herself very attracted to her new husband, and hey, they're married and it looks like she might have to stay there forever. So nothing wrong with just going ahead and consumating the marriage, right? Well, that's where the lack of birth control comes in. Elle's female ancestors have a history of dying of complications of either pregnancy or giving birth, so she's quite reasonably afraid of conceiving.
It was quite an interesting conflict, because I really could identify with Elle's fears. However attracted she is to Henry, how to have a sexual relationship in the 18th century if you truly don't want to get pregnant? Especially when you're married to an earl, for whom a wife is, first and foremost, a heir-making machine. Me, I think I'd remain celibate until menopause, in Elle's place. Anyway, I really liked Henry's behaviour here, because he shows himself to be a much more open-minded and generous man than I would have imagined an 18th century earl would be.
Unfortunately, the resolution of this conflict was bad, and that's one of the reasons why I said I thought the book derailed in the end. The resolution just wasn't there. Elle's very carefully developed and very valid reason for fearing getting pregnant just magically disappears. There's no mention of it in the ending. Why isn't she afraid anymore? I mean, she's living in the 1790s! If anything, the risks are exponentially higher that any pregnancy will come to a bad end! That was very unsatisfying.
And that was another problem I had with the ending. It was the ever-present one in T-T of "so, where will they live, the present or the past?". The choice they made was one I disliked.
The actual time-travel was fine, though. The logistics are usually problematic for me. Not just the why and how, but the whole crap about changing events in the past and affecting the future. If the author gets into that, I tend to get a headache, but if she doesn't, it feels like something is being ignored. But in this book, having the T-T combined with fairies pretty much gave the book a free pass in my mind. It didn't worry me.
MY GRADE: A B- just for the scene where Elle explores alternatives to birth control :-)