A Brother's Price, by Wen Spencer

>> Monday, February 06, 2012

TITLE: A Brother's Price
AUTHOR: Wen Spencer

COPYRIGHT: 2005
PAGES: 320
PUBLISHER: Roc

SETTING: Fantasy world
TYPE: Fantasy romance, really!
SERIES: None that I know of

In a world where males are rarely born, they've become a commodity-traded and sold like property. Jerin Whistler has come of age for marriage and his handsome features have come to the attention of the royal princesses. But such attentions can be dangerous-especially as Jerin uncovers the dark mysteries the royal family is hiding.
In a complete departure from the Ukiah Oregon novels which were my first experience with Wen spencer, A Brother's Price is a fantasy novel set in a world where due to biological imperatives, gender roles are much as in Regency historicals, only reversed.

In this world, male children are born infrequently, and so have becomed very prized. By necessity, a man gets married to all the woman in one family, and having their brother make a good marriage is a family's best chance of improving their circumstances. Virginity in man is prized as well, as venereal diseases are rife, and once caught, easily spread through the entire family. Young men are therefore sheltered and protected, often not allowed to even come into contact with strange women. If they do, their reputation, and therefore their marriage prospects, can be ruined. Yep, this is exactly why I said Regency historical romance.

Jerin Whistler lives with his sisters and several younger brothers (a rarity), and having reached marriageable age, is almost resigned to being married off into a boorish neighbouring family. But one day a young woman is found injured nearby and after much discussion, the family decide they should rescue her and risk bringing a stranger into their house. Good decision, because she turns out to be one of the royal princesses, and Jerin catches both her eye and that of her sister, Ren, who comes to fetch her.

Before he knows it, Jerin and his family are whisked off to town, supposedly for the royal family to sponsor him, as a thank you for the rescue. However, the reality is that Princess Ren has been agitating for him to be chosen as her and her sisters' husband, and he's there to be vetted.

But romance doesn't have a chance to progress smoothly, since the incident which resulted in the princesses coming into Jerin's life is not an isolated one, and someone is plotting against the royal family.

I thought the idea of this was interesting, and the world-building was actually quite good, but I just found the romance incredibly annoying, and wasn't that impressed with the plot, either.

The problem with the romance is that although Jerin is quite a good guy, brave and sensible, whenever he's with the princesses (especially Ren), Spencer chooses to make him behave like a twit. He constantly blushes and generally behaves like a child (he keeps being described as "adorable" by the women). And Ren absolutely loves this. She talks about how perfect Jerin is, because he's "biddable". Retch!

My objections had nothing to do with this being a role reversal world, I'd have hated this characterisation in a regular historical as well. I have no interest at all in a romance that so infantilises one of the characters and has the other character prize this.

As for the plot, it started out interesting enough, but got really, really boring at the end. There was an awful lot of running around, and people behaving pretty stupidly.

Unfortunate. This could have been quite good, and Spencer definitely knows how to do good worldbuilding.

MY GRADE: A C.

5 comments:

readerdiane,  6 February 2012 16:54  

Have you read Tinker (Elfhame series ?0

Darlynne,  6 February 2012 22:23  

This is the only book of Spencer's that I haven't read, although it's been on my shelf for years now. No, wait, I also have Endless Blue, also unread. Damn, I'll have to get on that. All of which is a long way of saying that I loved both her Tinker and Ukiah Oregon series and am hopping up and down about an upcoming sequel to Wolf Who Rules. A Brother's Price came highly recommended by a bookseller friend, so I'll be interested to see how my take compares to yours. Thanks for the review.

rosario001,  7 February 2012 16:40  

Darlynne: I'd be very interested to hear what you think of this when you do read it. It read completely different to the Ukiah Oregon series, at least...

rosario001,  7 February 2012 16:41  

Not yet! So, is it good?

Darlynne,  7 February 2012 19:12  

I'd say it's great, rather than good, but I am kind of biased. I read Tinker years ago and it remains one of my favorite books of all time. Fingers crossed that you will like it.

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