This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Berkley
Released on April 1, 2014
What sheer delight this was to read! I had not read this author’s books before and I certainly missed out when I started with the second book of the series (though, I had no trouble reading it out of actual order). Sometimes one is just precisely in the mood for something light, good-humored, and just enough heartwarming romance and twisting to the plot to give it balance. Even better if it totally takes one by surprise.
I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but an eccentric old lady who does as she pleases, four unique women who are sisters of the heart if not real sisters, a man styling himself as a rake merely to keep from those feelings that hurt and the chance of yet someone else leaving him, oh and lets not forget the watchful eyes of society, deep dark secrets from the past, and a love affair that takes everyone by surprise including the people who find themselves in love.
The story opens with Freddie Monkton-Coombes giving his word, reluctantly, to his best friend that he will watch over Max’s new sisters in law and his aunt while Max is away on his honeymoon. Freddie has no desire to be anywhere near respectable young women who are making their debut for the Season because they will be swarming with men who he will have to watchsafe and worse, they will be attending affairs where marriage-minded girls and their vigilant mamas will be looking to snag him.
But a his promise is his word of honor so he manfully sets out to do his duty. His duty soon leads him into the oddest situations because these women all seem to have an eccentric bend particularly the oldest of the sisters, Damaris. Freddie catches Damaris sneaking out, but instead of the trouble he expects her to be in, she is doing something crazy- and perfectly above board. He chooses to keep her secret and in turn, later finds himself needed to make an interesting proposition to Damaris. He needs a fake fiancée and Damaris needs the money he would pay her. Freddie gets a whole lot more than he bargained for from his growing feelings for the enigmatic Damaris to the truth about her past.
Damaris Chance reluctantly agrees to a Season. She has no desire to marry in fact she can’t or the truth would disgrace her and all that are associated with her. Her pretend sisters only know the part of her past that begins when she was sold to the brothel where they were all brought and escaped, but Damaris’ history is so much worse and darker than they can imagine. As a result of her choice, she knows that she must have an income and no one can know that she is working. She barely gets started on her nest egg when the disturbing Freddie Monkton-Coombes discovers what she is doing. While he isn’t the fribble and flirt he pretends to be, she still doesn’t expect the fastidious man to not only keep her secret, but act as her escort. His outrageous plan to use her to help him get past his mother’s plot to set him up is absurd, but what he dangles as an incentive sure is not. Damaris finds that faking an engagement is harder than she imagined and mostly because she starts to wish that it is real.
Alright, so I was very excited about this one. I was hooked from the beginning when I chuckled aloud over Max’s aunt’s scheming and her way of looking at matters.
[quote]The old lady flapped a dismissive hand. “Pish-tush, what nonsense! Now come along, gels, Mr. Monkton-Coombes will have finished his muffins, and while all men should be kept waiting a little- it keeps them nicely on edge, I find- it does not do to keep them dangling too long. And when one finally joins them, they must be made to feel that the waiting was worthwhile…” p. 15 Lady Beatrice from The Winter Bride[/quote]
There are aspects of this one that I found interesting. First, there is Freddie, Max, and Flynn’s involvement in trade and enterprise. I enjoyed that they were active, intelligent men and this occupied some scenes so that the focus was more wide-spread than the romance. I also found the unusual background of the circle of ladies a refreshing nuance to keep this one from being a traditional style historical romance.
And speaking of an aspect that went beyond the romance, emotional abuse of children is another theme that runs through this one. Freddie was an emotionally abused child because he was the ignored and then later, unwanted second son. Damaris also had it hard with her missionary father, from the time she could remember and worse when her mother died, who treated her more like a burden and later the hired help than his child. The man was a bitter, narrow-minded sort that didn’t reflect well on his choice to be a missionary. And worse, he perpetrated a form of emotional abuse to Damaris that made my blood boil. She had a very rough life, but added to this was all the wrong thinking this evil man instilled in her. She was repressed and ignorant as a result of his words to her as a child and young teenage girl. She was made to feel guilty over something that was natural and right like physical love and attraction. She thought some other things too that she got from this guy, but I don’t want to do spoilers so let’s just say that his actions were villainous even if later it all made sense.
And nestled in the middle of all this was their romance. In a nutshell, it was a fake mates type plot. Freddie needed Damaris to act as his betrothed to keep his parents off his back. Damaris and Freddie both swear off marriage for two different reasons. Freddie wants nothing to do with the intimacy, responsibility, and closeness of such a union and Damaris, influenced by her father and her past, thinks she can’t have marriage with a decent man and what’s more doesn’t ever want intimacy with a man. Naturally, this was a slow developing romance, but once it got there, it heated up fast. Freddie was careful with Damaris and he accepted her and her past without a qualm just as Damaris was perfect for him because she dug to the heart of his issues and made him face them. They were a fun, beautiful couple and I loved reading their romantic story.
[quote]”Well I’m shocked,” said Freddie in as shocked a manner as he could conjure up. “Deeply shocked,” he repeated. “May I serve you some of this apple tart? It looks and smells delicious, doesn’t it?”
“Apple tart?” she repeated blankly. “Did you hear a word I said?”
“What you said?” he cut a generous slice of tart. “You mean about you not being Miss Chance?” He slid it onto a plate and passed it to her. “And not being related to your sisters and your aunt and having no fortune- yes, and I told you that I was shocked. Deeply. Will you have cream with that?” Without waiting for her answer, he lavished her apple tart with clotted cream.
She frowned and gave him an accusing look. “You knew. All the time I worried about telling you, and you knew!”
“You’re not eating. It’s delicious. Of course I knew.”
“Then why did you say you were shocked? Deeply shocked?”
“You seemed to expect it and I didn’t want to disappoint you.” He gave her a wicked grin. “I don’t like to disappoint ladies, you see.” P. 135 Freddie and Damaris from The Winter Bride[/quote]
In summation, this was one of the best historical romances that I’ve read all year and heartily recommend it to other historical romance fans.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
This was a To Be or Not to Be…Read TBR Pile vote winner. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This ended up being a fantastic choice and hit the spot.
Romance Roundabout #277
Cliché Klatch #115 ‘Water Off a Duck’s Back’
New to Me #138 author/series
Historical Romance #75
Mt. TBR #104
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