A Brother's Price is an alternate universe novel by Wen Spencer."On an alternate Earth, where the population is ninety percent female and a man is sold by his sisters to marry all the women in a family, Jerin Whistler is coming of age. His mothers are respected landed gentry, his grandfather a kidnapped prince, and his grandmothers common line soldiers blackballed for treason, trained by thieves, re-enlisted as spies, and knighted for acts of valor. Jerin wants to marry well, and his sisters want a husband bought by his brotherís price."This book is partly speculative fiction, partly something of a Romance Novel, in which gender roles are largely reversed. An excerpt is found here.
This series provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: That antagonism between Corelle and Jerin.
Though this was slightly necessary due to the going to the capital thing putting Jerin at risk and Corelle took some responsibility for keeping him safe.
Though Jerin's thought that 'for the first time in months' he loves Corelle (for her bravery in going out to parley with armed women) implies that the hostility between them is either a recent development or intermittent.
Action Girl: The default. Every Whistler, including the boys, is trained to some degree in fighting. There's a mention once of "teams of little girls" loading and aiming rifles when they think someone's about to raid the house.
Aerith and Bob: Here are the names of the Whistler children—there are a total of twenty-eight girls/women and four boys—given in order of mention: Jerin, Corelle, Eldest, Pansy, Violet, Kai, Doric, Leia, Blush, Summer, Eva, Kira, Heria, Liam, Emma, Celain, Kettie, Birdie, and Bunny. Not all are named in the book.
All Women Are Lustful: When he's out in public, Jerin is eyed ceaselessly with jealousy or speculation, even with his heavily armed sisters there to protect him. When he puts his veil up for a bit, he's chastised for tempting people; later he's dissuaded from going out alone because he is not safe.
Arranged Marriage: Mothers and/or sisters get to choose who a man will marry, families differ on which gets the deciding vote. Jerin claims that one of his uncles was allowed to 'choose his wives' probably meaning he was given his choice of a short list of acceptable offers.
The Bechdel Test: The male Jerin is one of the main viewpoint characters, but still this book passes pretty much continuously. There are so few living male characters that the handful of times he encounters one are noteworthy.
Be Scantily-Clad to Get Your Women: A magazine of "men's fashions" includes codpieces to let prospective wives have a better view of what they're buying. Jerin is scandalized, moreso when he has to go to court and actually wear one.
Big Sister Bully: Corelle is being this toward Jerin in the first chapter - but then she's suffering from teenage hormones for the Boy Next Door. She gets better.
There are indications that Princess Eldest was also one of these, she is described as enforcing order with a riding crop. She also half-convinced Trini that it was her own fault that Keifer hurt her.
Big Sister Instinct: The women of Queensland have this in a big way for their brothers, sons, and other menfolk. Basically women are expected by other women to behave like cornered wolverines if they have 'men to protect'.
Big Sister Mentor: How elder are expected to treat younger sisters and for the most part they do. The sister-bond seems to be very strong, even when you don't like each other you love each other.
Bi the Way: Some women pleasure others for money. Cira mentions that she had a lover once, a beautiful young officer who was a whore's daughter, but after Cira was scarred she couldn't bear to touch her or look at her.
Bleed 'em and Weep: Jerin is horrified when Cira clocks someone with a stone paperweight. Not long after, he shoots a Porter woman to save Cira and holds absolutely still for several minutes, overcome with reaction.
Blood from the Mouth: A dead body is found with dried blood filling the mouth; the investigators conclude that the tongue was cut out and the victim likely died of it.
But I Would Really Enjoy It: When Rennsellaer/Ren seduces Jerin, he 'takes the edge off' of lust on both their parts by resorting to the techniques his father taught him for pleasing a woman, which are never described but appear to involve oral sex. They could go from there to outright penis-in-vagina intercourse, but with great difficulty he refrains so he can remain a Technical Virgin. Also, he refuses with Cira until she tells him she's another of the princesses, so it's okay, since she's one of his wives.
Chekhov's Skill: Set up far, far in advance and referenced a few times to keep the reader's memory fresh. Jerin was taught to read and write, and how to run, climb, ride, shoot, and defend himself, as well as how to pick locks, use sleight of hand, and know when to lie. He's still a Non-Action Guy, but spirited about it.
Childfree Is Not Allowed: Averted for women; one says she can't stand being around young children with their endless energy and whining, and that's seen as unremarkable. The Brindles brother, though, doesn't take care of his little sisters/possible incestuous children but cringes when they cry, which is a strike against him. Keifer also did not take care of his young wives.
Chivalrous Pervert: Cullen Moorland, the only non-Whistler male to have a speaking role in the book, and his cousin the princess Lylia, who smuggles him lewd tintypes and educates him on what she knows. They have a pact that whoever has sex first tells the other everything. Cullen is seen as harmless and kind of adorable, Jerin finds Lylia slightly threatening in an exciting way.
Crapsack World: The main characters are shielded from the worst of it, but oh boy. First, if you're a man, you're property, period. The best you can hope for is that your wives treat you well, and you may well wind up in a crib, where you'll be drugged to incoherence and studded out, probably catching a disease somewhere along the way. If you're a woman, things can still be very far from awesome, given ubiquitousness of poverty and high levels of social stratisfication, whole families are held to account for the actions of a single member, and if you're orphaned, God help you, because no one else will, seeing how adoption is outlawed by their religion. Which holds that the ruling dynasty is descended from the gods, by the way. The place appears to be an absolute monarchy (the princesses all seem decent enough, but still), has a thriving thieves' guild, and is so badly run that a bunch of masked women known only as "the Hats" can drum up enough support among the River Trash for overthrowing the government to be considered a legitimate option.
Crossdressing Voices: In-universe. An operatic male role is played by a woman who sings in the alto range.
Damsel in Distress: The first major action Jerin takes is to go out, pick the injured princess Odelia up out of a river, and carry her home. His sister Heria found her but wasn't big or old enough to carry her so far herself, and sending out the other middle sisters to get her would leave the boys and the littlest girls mostly unprotected, so Jerin went with Heria to protect him. This is the incident portrayed on the misleading cover.
Dances and Balls: The Mayfair summer season is stuffed with these. We only see the opening ball given by the Queens but presumably the activity goes on in the background as the rest of the plot proceeds
Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday: Sixteen is the age of marriage, when men leave their families to be joined to new ones. The upcoming occasion is cause for great apprehension for Jerin.
Death by Childbirth: A real fear, though 'normal' miscarriages and stillbirths are more common.
Defiled Forever: For men and women both, sex outside of marriage is seen as very sketchy due to the fear of venereal disease. In this world such diseases can be tested for, but the stigma remains. Jerin is terrified of this fate, knowing that his family's economic future rides on the "brother's price" they'll get from him; if he is raped, then in order to pay off their debts, they'll have to sell him to a crib, where he'll be numbered and drugged and forced to service women night after night.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: The men-as-property and polygamy aspects aside, the whole family is usually held accountable for the actions of one member so that a family can't simply commit treason and then sacrifice one person, becoming more willing to repeat the offense as revenge. This means that if treason is committed, the whole family is executed down to the children. Ren is distressed at the thought of killing her little 'niece' Eldest Porter, but the Whistlers took a third option and adopted her without telling her what her mothers did.
Dismissed Gender: A lot of the things men of this world are subjected to have been and still are applied to women in our world, and they're horrifying to think about. But there are various hints, some of them big, that these things haven't been Gender Flipped merely to make them more acceptable to the readers.
"She's a princess. All her life people have obeyed her commands. You're a boy. All your life you have listened to others. It was up to her to stop at any no you have, even if it was whispered."
Distressed Dude: Jerin, several times. He's not entirely helpless in these situations, but he'd have been in very bad shape without assistance. On the other hand his resourcefulness and unusual skills seriously impress Cira.
Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Averted. Actually it's close to the other way around; one of the first thoughts Jerin has in the book is that if he killed the sister who's always needling him people would shrug it off, though we quickly see that not only would he never actually hurt her, he's constantly aware that her anger, directed towards him, is much more dangerous than his anger at her.
Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Completely averted. Actually seems to go the other way around; Keifer, who was married to the princesses, fought often with the then thirteen-year-old Trini, and at one point stunned her with a blow to the head, tied her to his bed, and abused her. He 'serviced' her, but in-universe this was seen as less awful than breaking her nose and some of her fingers, blacking her eyes, burning her with a hot iron, and threatening to cut her face.
Double In-Law Marriage: SOP in Queensland where many families swap brothers thus saving themselves the price of a husband.
Driven to Suicide: A woman of one family is mentioned to have killed herself after hearing the news of many of her family dying in several horrible accidents within days of each other. It's also said that men sold into bad marriages sometimes kill themselves.
The Dutiful Son: Jerin in spades; he cooks, he cleans, he takes care of his little sisters and he worries about making a good marriage that will benefit his family.
Exotic Extended Marriage: The people of Queensland practice sororal polygyny with all the sisters of a family sharing a single husband. This can mean as many as thirty wives, a number that Jerin finds downright intimidating.
First Girl Wins: Sort of. The first woman Jerin gets physically close to who isn't a relative is Odelia, who finds him amazingly attractive. The woman who seduces him and he first falls in love with is Ren. However, since they are sisters, marrying Ren means marrying Odelia too, and Jerin falls in love with her, too.
Florence Nightingale Effect: Odelia feigns being more badly hurt than she actually is out of a hope for Jerin to keep tending her, fantasizing about stealing a kiss from him.
Friend to All Children: Jerin is good with kids but doesn't let them walk all over him, even the little princesses, which makes him look that much more suitable as a husband.
Fully-Clothed Nudity: A nightdress that falls to the knee. It's practically as decent as a walking robe! ...only not, if it's all you're wearing when your trip to the kitchen for a midnight snack is interrupted by a horny princess.
Gender Rarity Value: Men are carefully secluded and protected from "husband raids", which are illegal but always at the edge of Jerin's mind. It's mentioned that outside of some public events, a woman may never see an unveiled man who isn't her father or grandfather or, if she's lucky, her brother or her husband. Women who were fathered in the cribs may never have seen a man at all.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Cira has an enormous silvery scar on her face that healed well, so it's not raised. She also has similar scars all over her body. In-story she's seen as ambiguous for quite some time, and it turns out that she's the missing princess Halley.
Surely, the gods were merciful and loving. Surely they smiled upon this union, and he and his wives would live happily ever after.
Harmless Lady Disguise: Women are not the "harmless" sex in this world, but in a sense it still applies. Whores are women who prostitute themselves to other women and often try to look like men. At one point Jerin goes out disguised as one of them and is amazed at how little attention is paid to him.
Heroes Want Redheads: The 'flame haired' Princesses seem to affect our protagonist like an aphrodisiac - every one of them.
Heroic Bastard: All of the Whistler grandmothers were fathered on trips to "cribs", sort of brothels that women too poor to marry visit with the aim of becoming pregnant. So in a sense they are Daughters of Prostitutes.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Keifer was assigned to have the older princesses go to a theater so when it caught fire they would be killed. It was specifically chosen so he could duck out the back and escape, but he missed his cue and stayed; Eldest Porter came to fetch him but was killed as well.
Holding Hands: What happens when Trini finally warms a bit to Jerin.
Hold Your Hippogriffs: "Easy as mud: dirt and water", "Apples only come from apple trees", and "It's a tasteless stew, but it's all we have to eat." The Whistlers also have a family-specific saying, variations on "Catch a shining coin".
Honor Before Reason: Averted by the Whistlers. Jerin gives his 'word of honor' he will cooperate and not try to escape if only the villains will spare Cira, who is a little shocked when he breaks his word at the first opportunity. He retorts that you meet liars and traitors on their own level - and in his opinion allowing himself to be raped would be much worse.
Hot Guys Are Bastards: Keifer, who is described as having been very beautiful, but also stupid and cruel, is a straight example. Jerin, also noted for his beauty, subverts this by being both intelligent and very kind-natured.
Informed Attractiveness: Inasmuch as this is possible in a non-illustrated book. Egan Wainwright was repeatedly called handsome, to the point of being shown to visiting royalty. When he's found murdered and stripped, the narration says he had "no dignity in death" and notes scrawny hairy legs and a paunchy stomach (he probably did look better fully dressed, since clothing would have masked those imperfections). Somewhat justified, though; this is a world where men are so rare and so rarely seen that any one with all his teeth and both eyes is considered attractive.
Also nobody is at his best after being drugged, raped, and murdered.
I Wished You Were Dead: Princess Halley said she wished Keifer was dead the moment before a bomb went off in the theater he—and several of her older sisters—were inside of.
The Jail Bait Wait: Sort of. When a man is married into a family, he marries all of the sisters, regardless of age—including children and any unborn or yet-to-be-conceived daughters of the mothers. He's not to service his wives until they are of age, and a chunk of the responsibility for caring for and nurturing younger wives falls to him.
Kissing Cousins: Spoilery example aside, Ren and Jerin share great-great-grandmothers, making them third cousins.
Lady Land: What this unnamed country would usually appear to be, since men are so carefully protected. There's a big procession in the city at the end of the book, in which it's noticed that there are even some men at the upper stories of buildings watching.
Let's Wait a While: Despite the undeniable attraction Jerin feels for Ren, he doesn't want to 'go all the way' until they're engaged. Actually he feels ashamed for going as far as he did.
Lineage Comes from the Mother: Noble or royal blood through the father gives status (most of the Queensland nobility became so by marrying a royal prince) but land and titles descend only through the female.
Lysistrata Gambit: Keifer often withheld sex in conjunction with throwing raging fits in order to get his wives to go along with whatever he wanted. His older wives were madly in love with him, so it tended to work. And he cheated on them anyway.
Marry for Love: what Jerin really wants is to marry into a family he'll love instead of simply enduring. He gets his wish, falling in love with all the princesses.
Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Somewhat, by our standards. More attention is paid to beautifying males, who have long flowing hair and do domestic things. Jerin is actually somewhat feminine by their standards, since he was taught to do things men usually don't learn.
Matriarchy: The "gender-flip of patriarchy" variety.
Middle Child Syndrome: Corelle seems to have a bad case of this. In fact dividing a family's numerous daughters into 'eldest', 'middle' and 'youngest' cadres seems to be standard practice in Queensland. Since family authority goes strictly by seniority you can imagine how much this must suck for assertive younger sisters.
Missing Moms: The Whistler mothers are elsewhere for a good chunk of the book, though they do come back.
My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Sort of. Eldest Whistler, twenty-eight years old, would like to have one child before menopause. Having seen her mothers pregnant she's aware that sometimes they seem miserable, other times they almost glow, and she wants to experience it once. After that, she laughingly tells Jerin, she'll be happy to let her sisters bear the children.
No Periods, Period: Averted. When the body of a man is found fresh in a shallow grave, his penis is bloody. An investigator believes he was raped by his murderers, and one or more was a virgin or menstruating.
Parent Child Incest: Suspected to occur among the Brindles. We would think of it more as "Aunt-Nephew Incest", but it's considered parent-child in this world. People consider it in the first place because of the general paucity of men and the high value of boy children, but there's a great taboo against it.
Post-Kiss Catatonia: When Cira surprise kisses him, Jerin is pretty much flabbergasted and doesn't know what to say or think.
Practice Kiss: Cullen and Lylia have tried it, but since they're cousins who were raised together, Cullen cheerfully admits that it was like kissing a sister.
Promotion to Parent: When his father dies, Jerin steps into the child-nurturing and house-tending role, and does well at it, since he'd been helping and learning from his father all along. The down side is that when they hear he's leaving to be married, his youngest sisters react as if losing another father.
Pun: When discussing whores—women who service women for money—Jerin naively says they lack certain vital equipment, and Cira tells him they wear ivory prosthetics referred to as bones.
Questionable Consent: Jerin and Ren when Ren seduces him. He stresses that he really really wanted it, was enthusiastic when he realized that otherwise his only intimacy might be with the Brindles, and was quick to protest that Ren stopped when he said no after Eldest Whistler called it rape... but before he gave in he was babbling uncomfortably and looking for excuses to leave while she touched him.
Raised by Dudes: Pretty much the norm. Men are seen as, and act as, the more nurturing sex in this book. Mothers and older sisters help out, but they're seen as more the disciplinary ones, while the husband or brother is seen as the sweeter more loving one.
Romance Novel: Jerin mentions the adventure novels his sisters read, which always involved secret passages into the mens' quarters. The daring heroines used them to save their true loves from heartless mothers, cruel sisters, abusive wives, and vile kidnappers.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Princesses seem to be very busy young ladies. All the adult sisters have offices where they seem to spend a good deal of time.
Someone to Remember Him By: Jerin's father died within a year of the book's start. Mother Elder was with him the night before he catastrophically slipped and fell, and initially thought she wasn't pregnant but going through menopause.
Standard Hero Reward: Initially appears this way. Jerin and his family saved the Princess Odelia, and the end of the book has him marrying the princesses. Really it's more complex than that; the Princess Ren persuaded her Mother Elder to sponsor the Whistlers to come to the royal court, and a lot of time and effort is spent trying to bring Jerin's sisters and Ren's family to agree to the marriage.
Not So Standard Royal Court: Queensland has the royal family, royal retainers, royal guard, and scheming nobles of the Standard Royal Court but with a twist; all these roles from Queens down are played by cadres of up to twenty sisters.
STD Immunity: So thoroughly averted that it has a major impact on the culture.
Technical Virgin: Jerin after being seduced by Ren. He has angst over it, worrying if it means his mouth isn't virgin now, or if it's a whole package deal.
Tender Tears: Jerin cries several times over the course of the book.
Terrified of Germs: Well, of sexually transmitted diseases. Since a man marries every sister in a family and is expected to service any of them who are of age, a single member of that group with an STD will pass it on to all of them, which in several cases has led to that family dying out. Fear of venereal disease has really affected the culture.
Theme Naming: Of a sort. The firstborn female of any family is always named Eldest. The Whistlers have the Mother Eldest, the oldest of the mothers, and Eldest Whistler, the eldest of their daughters. A batch of experimental prototype cannons which were stolen before the book starts, which have a major subplot devoted to them, are called the Prophets and have names: Joan, Bonnye, Anna, Judith, Gregor, Larisa, Nane, and Ami.
The Unfair Sex: Initially the book seems to suggest that in this world if a marriage is unhappy it's because the wives have all the power over the husbands. Certainly that's what Jerin is afraid of. Later we see that the husband can foster and spread misery just as well himself, and either may be blamed.
Unusual Euphemism: Sex between a man and a woman in which the man is willing is often referred to as him "servicing" her. Brothels stocked with men used to get poorer women pregnant are called "cribs".
Unwanted Harem: Men who marry marry all the sisters of a family at once, and these can be large. Jerin's worst nightmare is being married to the Brindle family. There are thirty of them. He'd prefer a smaller family, with only around ten women he'd be expected to 'service' and perform childcare and housekeeping for.
Villainous Incest: The Brindles, suspected to be incestuous, are seen as thoroughly repulsive to both Jerin and, to his relief, Eldest Whistler, who promises she won't trade him for their brother. Kij and Keifer Porter had sex and even a daughter before Keifer was killed.
Women in this culture are generally expected to engage in whatever level of violence is necessary to protect the men in their family.
Wedlock Block: Ren runs into problems getting her mothers to approve a marriage to Jerin when her Mother Eldest insists that all the adult princesses agree, in order to avoid some of the problems they had with Keifer. Since Halley's missing and Trini really doesn't want to remarry, it's tough going for Ren.
What Beautiful Eyes: When Jerin first sees Cira, he's struck first by the scar on her face, then by the fact that it gives her face a degree of character and boldness that it otherwise lacks, and then she lifts his veil:
Her eyes were green, green and changing as summer wheat, one moment dark as velvet, next light as silk, with long thick dark eyelashes. Gorgeous eyes. How could he have thought her plain with such eyes?
Wife Husbandry: this aspect of Queensland marital customs is not explored but seeing as a husband is expected to care for little sisters (ie: his future wives) as well as his own children he definitely has an opportunity to mold them into the kind wives he wants them to be.
Women Don't Cry: Right in the first chapter, Jerin's gently chiding a little sister who's bawling over a cut knee with "Big girls don't cry." Men, on the other hand, do cry.
Your Cheating Heart: Cheating as seen as immensely low for all parties involved because it invites the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases running rampant. Keifer cheated on his wives with his sister.
Your Makeup Is Running: Cira puts lip paint on Jerin to better disguise him as a whore, then they start kissing and she laughingly says she'll have to do it over.