THE WINTER BRIDE
Author: Anne Gracie
Penguin Aus RRP $24.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
A man who thinks Pride and Prejudice is a horror novel because it assumes all single men with a fortune must be in want of a wife. A woman with a past who has vowed not to marry. A compromising situation. Throw these all together in a Regency England setting and you have The Winter Bride, a story in which romance overcomes all manner of reluctance. It’s the second in Anne Gracie’s Chance Sisters series (I read The Autumn Bride, reviewed here, last year).
The series focuses on four young women who are facing a life of destitution until Lady Beatrice Davenham takes them under her wing (she has more fun making up stories about their past than they do). The first book ended with the marriage of Abby to Lady Beatrice’s nephew, Max. With the happy couple on their honeymoon, the other sisters are left to prepare for the next coming-out season and while Jane is excited about the prospect of being officially presented to society, Damaris does not echo her feelings because the main aim of the season is to marry the girls off. Max has asked his best friend, Freddy Monkton-Coombes, to keep an eye on the girls, and Freddy reluctantly agrees. Soon, however, he realises that marriage-shy Damaris could be the answer for getting his parents off his back (it’s time he married and produced an heir); he proposes that the two fake their betrothal for a short while so he can avoid meeting a pack of what he calls ‘muffins’ his mother has selected for him as potential brides.
It seems like a simple enough deal – in return for pretending to be engaged to Freddy, Damaris is promised a cottage that will take her away from society and its expectations. Of course, it’s never that simple and when the two end up in a compromising situation, they have no choice but to go ahead with the wedding. With the two increasingly aware of their attraction to each other, will theirs be a marriage in name only, or will Freddy seduce his reluctant bride?
That really is the question and Gracie takes readers on a romantic ride through the countryside, watching as a rake is reformed and a spinster-to-be is seduced in bodice-ripping style. It’s a charming read which cleverly builds up the romantic tension until the reader is bursting for the couple to fall into each others’ arms. While it’s as funny and entertaining as it is heart-fluttering, Gracie also gets to the heart of the characters’ motivations, which adds depth to an otherwise light read.
Do you need to read the first book to get the most out of this? Not really. I think the story stood on its own feet well.
Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.
Bookish treat: A good bodice-ripper deserves some equally good chocolate.