Courtly Intrigue Has Never Been So Boring: A Review of The Betrothed by Kiera Cass
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Pretty gowns and fancy jewels are my downfall, alright! I’ve been looking forward to reading The Betrothed ever since Kiera Cass announced it. So let’s dive into a world of courtly romance, fancy gowns, and political intrigue.
On the surface, the book doesn’t seem like much. The basic premise is that Hollis Brite, a young lady of the Coroan court, has caught the eye of the one and only King Jameson. Jameson thinks of Hollis as a shinning jewel, and the only woman he could possibly want as his queen. Hollis, while originally returning Jameson’s affections, meets a family from a neighboring country and falls in love with the eldest son; Silas.
This book sounds like it doesn’t have much going on. It was marketed as a steamy YA romance; it’s not that. The romance of this book doesn’t go past hidden kisses in hallways. The marketing team didn’t do a good job with this one. Actually, I should say that they did a good job with the aesthetics for the book, just not the actual content.
To me, it seems that the marketing team behind the book wanted to capitalize on The Selection series, and marketed The Betrothed as a book similar The Selection. I’ve seen fans of Kiera Cass upset by this. Her books aren’t the same; they have notable similarities, but the marketing makes it seem like The Betrothed will be The Selection 2.0. By doing that, it diminishes The Betrothed’s chances at gaining popularity.
This book is not The Selection. If you’ve got the notion that this book is basically the same as Cass’ past work, please get that out of your head because while there are similarities, there are still differences. Yes, this a book set in a royal court, and there is a love triangle between one woman and two men. But you can also name countless other books with a similar premise. I do not find it fair to the author or the books in question if someone is judging a text based on the basic plot and how similar it is to the author’s past work. I find issue with The Betrothed, but it’s not because of the similarities in Cass’ work.
The issues I have with The Betrothed begins with the characters. I dislike Hollis, our main character, with every fiber of my being. I don’t hate her; I wouldn’t mind being her friend because she keeps everything pretty lighthearted which I appreciate so much; especially in this age of quarantine. Sadly, aside from beginning a fruit fight between boats in one of the first chapters, she doesn’t do anything interesting. Nor does she have much of a personality. If I was kidnapped, held at gun point, and the only way I could get out of the situation was to name a personality trait of Hollis’, I would die. She is just so unremarkable!
Sadly, Cass doesn’t give much of a description of how any of the characters look either. If Hollis wasn’t on the book jacket, I would have no idea what she’s supposed to look like. I’m pretty sure the only description of her is that she is blonde. I can’t recall there being any comment made on her eye color, height, facial features or anything of the sort.
The same goes for Jameson. You get the impression that he’s supposed to be the tall, dark, and handsome type. Cass does make a brief mention that the people of Coroan tend to have darker features; which makes Hollis unique since she has blonde hair. Again, this is pretty much the only description we get on her though.
Personality wise, Jameson attempts to talk like a poet when he’s around Hollis. He’s desperately trying to seem like a romantic, eloquent person, but it’s just awkward. He’s not a poetic person, though he tries to be; he constantly tells Hollis she’s like the sun, but it comes across like he’s just trying to get into Hollis’ pants. As it turns out, that’s kinda the point of his character, but Jameson isn’t written charming enough to pull his fake niceties off. For example, he tells Hollis that any children the two of them could have are to be married off to other kingdoms, it comes as no shock because he’s not charming to make anyone think he could or would care enough to give his future children unconditional love and support.
Silas Eastoffee is the only one out of the love triangle that has any clear description. He comes from a neighboring kingdom and has bright blue eyes and blonde hair because of his heritage. His looks are what catches Hollis’ eye, and because he’s supposed to be the superior love interest, he’s the only one with a clear personality as well.
Cass writes him as hard working, loyal, and just. He adheres to the ideals of courtly romance, and he accepts the fact that Hollis is all but engaged to the king. He’s basically the forbidden fruit, but he is just as boring as the other characters.
The setting is as poorly described as the characters. What I love most about Cass’ writing is her ability to describe people and places. Everything in The Selection felt real; I felt like I knew the characters personally. Nothing in The Betrothed feels real.
I have no idea what any place is supposed to look like, and I have no idea where this fake country could even be. Like a royalty based Christmas film on the Hallmark channel, the setting is just vague Europe. The palace is just some large, brick structure, the main throne room area has stained glass windows and a throne and that’s about it, and any glittering jewels are described as “ropes of jewels.” Descriptions are not this book’s strong suit.
As far as the time period goes, there isn’t any indication on that either. It’s definitely not set in the present or future as there is no mention of technology. My best guess the story takes place in a medieval or renaissance type time period. Again, nothing is described so I can’t base a guess off of the architecture or clothing mentioned in the book.
As far as the plot goes, things don’t really get interesting until two thirds of the way through. Here’s your spoiler warning for the plot of the book.
Basically, Silas and his family are on the run from a group called The Darkest Knights; sorry Kiera Cass but that’s a lame name for the main villains of the story. The king of Isolte, Quinton, wants to take out Silas’s family because they have a direct line to the throne thus posing a threat.
Hollis learns this first hand after running off with Silas and the rest of the Eastoffee family. Upon marrying Silas, The Darkest Knights crash the wedding party to kill and destroy everything and everyone in sight. The only ones to survive this massacre are Hollis, and her new mother-in-law and sister-in-law; Lady Eastoffee and Scarlet.
It should be mentioned that King Jameson doesn’t put up a fight at trying to win Hollis back before any of this happens. She literally writes him to tell him she’s getting married to Silas, and all he says is: “ok.” I have a theory about this that I’ll get to at the end.
Anyway, back to the massacre. Everyone but the three women die, Hollis parents whom she doesn’t really like die, Silas and his male family members die, all the party guests die. This is the catalyst for the next book as Hollis travels with her in-laws to Isolte. Scarlet and Lady Eastoffee are heading back to Isolte to live with relatives. I’m not too sure as to why exactly Hollis is going to this country. The only reason I can think of is to begin a relationship with Ethan, who is one of the relatives Hollis had already met.
Ethan and Hollis met briefly at the palace when the Isolte king came for a visit. The two did not have a meet cute, they had a meet ugly. Ethan fought with Hollis and basically said she was nothing more than a pretty face for Jameson to have on his arm. And since her husband is now dead, and there is no way she would ever get back with Jameson after he said he was going to marry off the pair’s future children before they have even been conceived, that leaves Ethan as the only other possible male love interest. I would love to see a massive plot twist where it’s revealed that Hollis and Scarlet are either bisexual or lesbians and fall in love, but I highly doubt that's going to happen.
Listen, I really wanted to enjoy this book. Kiera Cass is one of my favorite YA authors, but this book is just sooooo boring. It never felt like the characters were in danger or anything massive was about to happen. My favorite part of this book was getting to guess what may happen in book two.
I personally think Cass is going to have Ethan and Hollis fall in love because he’s being a difficult person and doesn’t get along with Hollis. It just seems like the most likely scenario to happen now that Silas is dead. I also think that Jameson has something to do with The Darkest Knights, and that he had them kill Silas so he could get Hollis back. I expect there to be some reveal in book two that states Jameson hired The Darkest Knights to kidnap Hollis so he could rescue her but that can’t happen at the moment because they failed at getting her.
In some weird way, I think it would be almost satisfying if Jameson and Hollis ended up married at the end of the sequel. Since Silas is dead, an argument can be made that Hollis doesn’t believe she’ll find love again so she could at least live in luxury as queen. It would be realistic because not everyone gets a “happy ending.”
I really hope the sequel is better. I fully support Kiera Cass and will buy any book she writes in the future, but I just expected more from The Betrothed. I wanted the romance that was promised to us, and I wanted courtly intrigue. I got neither. I am highly disappointed with this one, and do not recommend it.