When reading a book, it helps if the reader actually believes in the fundamental plot thread undergirding the action. In the case of The Bride Price, the competition between 15 illegitimate or third or fourth sons to win an aristocratic title, some property and a particular woman as a wife to be laughably unlikely. As a tool for our hero Sebastien Deville, illegitimate son of the Duke of Grandien, it works well enough.
He has a chance to shine in the traditional noble pursuits of gambling, horse riding, fencing and the rest of it, but it also gives him an excuse to spend two months among other men (including his half-brother) and a passel of women, including heroine Caroline Martin.
The competition also allows Caroline to do some sabotaging
- she doesn't want Sebastien to win; he would win the hand of her friend Lady Sarah as a bride, and Caroline knows
that Sebastien and Lady Sarah won't suit. Sebastien doesn't seem interested in Sarah,
regardless, but he is interested in Caroline – very much so. Although his pursuit
could be put down to a bet, there might actually be much more to it. Caroline has thrown her life away on a worthless man once before.
Will she make the same mistake again?
The competition is a useful device upon which to hang various events, but it's so incredibly unlikely
(along with many of the events that take place in this novel) that I was unable to take the story seriously.
There are some interesting vignettes on people's lives changing, growing up and learning what's important, but it's all enmeshed within the threads of the competition and
loses its force.
The author also makes some errors of language where people speak American rather than English, including a reference to people behaving like 'chickadees', a word for a bird unused in England (we have the rather more amusing 'tits' instead). The behavior among the house party guests seems unlikely, too, and the neatly-wrapped ending doesn't convince. Overall The Bride Price has some good points but equally many points of annoyance and unbelievability.