What I Read Last Weekend . . .
Flowers For the Bride by Donna Bell, Carola Dunn, Jean R. Ewing, Marcy Stewart, Phylis Warady, Winifred Witton -- Regency Romance stories
These six stories by notable Regency authors all have a wedding theme.
"The Wager" by Donna Bella is about a young lady, Serena Blessed, who made a fun wager with her best friend Angel that whoever marries first before the end of the Season will be paid 100 pounds by the "loser." Of course neither has that kind of money, Serena being from an impoverished family and Angel spending her pocket money as soon as she gets it, but it's fun to challenge each other. Serena accepts the hand of Lord Redmon with calmness if not affection. Then Angel's brother Nicholas and his friend Alfred return from the wars. Selena is certain she's over her childhood infatuation with Nicholas but he seems just as charming as ever and is hard to resist. He doesn't approve of her engagement to Lord Redmon, having known the gentleman at school. Nicholas is determined that Serena will not marry Redmon, even if it means losing the woman he loves. This story starts off well enough but then the characters behave stupidly and it doesn't quite end the way I thought it should. The villain is very stereotypical yet also extremely cruel. The story would benefit from including a bit more interaction between the characters and would have been a nice comedy of manners.
"A Conformable Wife" by Carola Dunn finds Lord Benedict Clifford in need of a wife. He asks his sister Juliet for help finding a comfortable, conformable wife. Juliet realizes why her brother wants such a wife. Their parents abandoned home and family to travel around the world, causing them to be the talk of the ton and much embarrassment for their children. Benedict has tried to live his life in a proper manner. Julie recognizes that her brother will be bored to tears by a conformable wife and recommends her old school friend, Lady Eleanor Lacey as a bride who will bring Benedict our of himself. Nell has spent her adulthood quietly in the country, caring for first her father and then for her brother. Her brother has recently married, and his wife is making Nell so miserable that home is no longer a comfortable place to be. Nell considers sacrificing her independence for marriage and children. She listens to her sister-in-law's advice and hides her red hair, her large shaggy dog, her love of the passionate music of Beethoven and her cart and thoroughbred horses. Benedict proposes to the woman he believes will make him the perfect wife. Nell realizes that her groom lacks passion and decides to run away before the wedding. Feeling ill-used, Benedict dashes off after Nell with the intention of dragging her to the alter. When Nell's horses are stolen, she's determined to go after them but when Benedict arrives, all her plans go awry, and the pair end up learning much more about each other and about themselves than they ever dreamed they would. This is my second favorite story in the collection. The story was fully fleshed out and funny. The characters really get to know one another and the reader gets to know them too. Carola Dunn is one of my favorite Regency authors and this story is no exception.
In "The Impossible Bridegroom" by Jean R. Ewing, Beth Lindsey is surprised when her wealthy cousin Harriet Honeywell calls at Beth's humble country home to announce her engagement to Henry Fitztroy, Lord Ravenstoke. All Harriet cares about is his title and her trousseau. She invites Beth to join her in London to shop for bridal clothes. Beth declines, feeling she has to stay in the country and care for her father and younger brother, but her father insists she go on holiday. In London, Beth is forced to follow her cousin from shop to shop, never seeing the sites. When her cousin Harriet and their carriage are nowhere to be found, Beth decides to take a hack home. When an urchin steals her money and she becomes lost, a kind gentleman provides assistance. Beth loses her heart to the charming man, only to discover that he is her cousin's fiancee! Henry finds Beth equally charming. He never intended to marry Harriet, or anyone for that matter, but he was tricked into it. If only he could find a way out of the impossible engagement. He decides to try his best and come what may. This is my favorite story in the collection. The romance happens rather quickly but for a short story, it's sweet and believable. I really like Beth and Henry. However, the plot is very predictable and I wondered why the characters didn't realize what was happening. Overall though, this is a nice, pleasant story.
In "An Indefinite Wedding" young Lady Sarah Millbright is about to marry the formidable Duke of Weston. She thinks she's being ill-used and would rather marry her childhood sweetheart, Gerry. Her parents didn't approve of the match and they are determined she will marry Weston. Atremis Shallot, Duke of Weston, had a problem. He needs to marry Lady Sarah or else he'll lose part of his estate. He has inherited his father's debts as well as his father's love of gambling. Though he promised Lady Sarah's father he would reform, he couldn't resist one last wager. He lost and now owes his family jewels to a friend. There's only one problem: the family jewels have disappeared. Lord Weston has hired a husband and wife detective team, Lord and Lady Duncan (featured in My Lord Footman), to find the jewels. Lady Duncan also finds herself taking on the role of counselor to the young bride and her groom. Her advice helps Lady Sarah decide what to do but there are still obstacles that must be overcome before the wedding can come off. This story is rather weak. I can't stand young heroines like Lady Sarah or overbearing gentlemen like the Duke. Together, they make an impossible pair. This, coupled with some newlywed misunderstandings, my other least favorite plot, makes the story difficult to like. There are too many subplots and characters to keep track of in a short story. I had a hard time getting through it. I liked the Duncans better than the main characters and would rather have read about them.
"Delightful Deceiver" by Phyllis Warady features a pair of twin sisters who are as different as night and day. Bold Hester is willing to risk her reputation while her sister, Hannah, is more meek. Hannah desires nothing more than to marry Charles Stewart, her childhood friend who aspires to be a clergyman. Peregrine Simpson, Duke of Alden, is on the hunt for a wife. He's drawn to spirited Hester but she convinces him that Hannah will make a better Duchess. Hannah doesn't have the nerve to stand up to her family and finds herself in an unwanted engagement. To make matters worse, Hester realizes she loves Lord Alden but also finds herself unwittingly thrust into an unwanted engagement. She has to convince her sister to get up the nerve to set things right. This is the weakest story in the collection. Much of the action is glossed over and summarized. The reader doesn't get to know the gentlemen at all and the ladies are two-dimensional stereotypes. This story is not really worth reading.
In "The Vicarious Bride" Miss Kitty Wellfleet escapes the Misses Grimsbey's Select Academy for Young Ladies of Bath to meet with a handsome young soldier. Her favorite teacher, Miss Abigail Fordham, chases after Kittyknowing that Kitty will be expelled if she's found breaking the rules again. The ladies are caught sneaking back in and not only is Kitty expelled, Abby loses her job. Lord Ashley, Kitty's guardian, comes to collect her and hires Abby as her chaperone until Kitty is able to mature enough to marry Lord Ashley. Abby falls head-over-heels in love with the dashing Corinthian who is destined for another. Kitty tries her hardest to break all the rules with Abby trying to keep the girl in line while nursing a broken heart. This story could benefit from being a full length novel. The characters need to be fleshed out more as well as important plot points, which are here summarized. I couldn't get to know the characters and didn't feel the romance was believable. As it stands, this is an average story.