Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Review: Beauty or Brains? by Barbara Cartland

Title: Beauty or Brains?
Author: Barbara Cartland

Read copy: eBook
Published: January 11, 2013
Publisher: M-y Books
ISBN: 1782130551
ISBN-13: 9781782130550

When the Marquis of Sherwood declines her invitation to a Society occasion with the scathing comment that he has no wish to spend his time with débutantes, whom he believes are "half-witted, gauche, stupid and not well-educated", Lady Katherine Wick is incensed. Even more so when she discovers that he apparently prefers the company of the Gaiety Girls, the femmes fatals of the theatrical set.

So she resolves to teach him a lesson by enlisting dear friend Lavina Vernon and her most beautiful, talented and witty friends to pose as Gaiety Girls at an unchaperoned party at the Marquis' country mansion—there to prove that Society girls are intelligent as well as glamorous. Kind, demure country parson's daughter Lavina is uncomfortable with this deceit—all the more so as she comes to realize that her heart belongs utterly to the Marquis. The question, once the pretense has been exposed, is whether he will treasure it...Or break it.

My rating:

The Marquis of Sherwood had the gall to "mock" the debutantes, now they want their "revenge". He called them stupid and gauche, and prefers to keep company with theater people? They'll show the dastardly person!

Only they're one short, so Katherine, their leader, decides to ask her cousin, and a neighbor on her father's country estate, to help make their group an even number. It helps Lavina is pretty, innocent, guileless, loves to read, knows all there is to know about architecture, and wants to visit Tibet and India.

Somehow that's the perfect combination to enchant the Marquis.

Sometimes I surprise myself. I really do. I read this one (a translation) many, many years ago (where I live, a Barbara Cartland story is released every month like clockwork), and I rather liked it, despite the template-y plot, and rehashed characters. In most stories, it seems Ms Cartland simply changed the setting, names, and the title of the hero, everything else reads pretty much the same.
But, I've obviously forgotten how humorous (not in a good way) reading a BC story can be, so I decided to try it in its original language.

I must say, it was even worse.

The hero was pretty much the only saving grace this story had. Yes, he was an asshole, but he had a plausible reason to be one. Everything else was just downright stupid. The heroine was a mess. I guess reading historicals by more "modern" authors has spoiled me for everything else, and I missed a more "developed" female lead. Lavina was just bleh. And the contrast between her academic mind and her inexperience with everything else in life was glaring. And bothersome.
Don't get me started on the plot. You take away the idiotic premise of eight young girls attending an unchaperoned party at a bachelor's house (with many bachelors in attending), pretending to be experienced theater girls, and you don't have a plot. And I'd rather not contemplate what could've gone wrong if the plan backfired or if the bachelors at the party weren't gentlemen.

I missed some intrigue, a murder or two...Anything to keep it lively. Instead, all I got was blabbing by the heroine, puzzling by the hero, racing horses, a stolen Emerald Buddha, and lots of yammering about India and Tibet. The latter was probably only thrown into the mix to increase the word-count and give the hero and heroine something to talk about, since they didn't have a lot (read: nothing) in common.

Still, it was a quick (brainless) read with the added bonus of loud laughter in the end with the hero's kisses carrying the heroine "into a special Heaven" and the "stars in her heart becoming little flames".



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