A Bride for Lord Wickton
A Bride for Lord Wickton is the second book in a trilogy. Three aristocrats, ending their stint as officers, are preparing to return to England. They make a side trip to Italy and save an old gypsy woman. She blesses them – or curses them – by telling them that they’ll each find true love by the time summer comes around again. The lord to fall in this book is Barth Juston, Earl of Wickton. The stage is set.
Like a light comedic play, this book is fun while it lasts. It’s not as farcical as most of Shakespeare’s comedies, but exhibits the same tone. It features a strong-minded heroine, an intelligent, manly hero whose smarts sometimes get him in trouble, and a small cast of supporting players who, while not being fully developed, certainly serve their purpose in each scene. The dialogue sparkles and the reader enjoys.
Barth is returning to England to marry a childhood acquaintance, much against his will. His family needs the money and as the granddaughter of a merchant, Isa Lawford fits their needs perfectly. (As an aside, can I say right here that names like Barth and Isa when they’re not shortened forms of Bartholomew and Isabel – and these aren’t – are pretty distracting? Don’t get me started on the wordplays they suggested. Okay, mini rant over.) Isa and Barth’s marriage has long been understood, but he hasn’t spoken with her, written to her, or even passed on a word about his whereabouts in five years. She has no intention of going through with the marriage. Though she once thought she was in love with Barth, she’s now found a man much more suited to her taste, the son of the local vicar.
Barth is dumbfounded to hear Isa’s views on their relationship. His thinking runs something along the lines of: Sure he was gone for five years and never got in touch with her, sure he had several affairs while he was gone, okay he doesn’t love her, and yes he feels that marriage is more of a trap then anything else. But that’s pretty typical, so why on earth wouldn’t she want to marry him? He’s an Earl, she’d get to be a Countess. How dare she not want to go through with it? She’s supposed to be in love with him, isn’t she? Barth’s amazement is not as boorish as it sounds. It’s one of the funnier bits in the book. He’s genuinely challenged by Isa’s behavior, and his confusion fits with how he’s been treated all his life. Things generally go his way.
With that fact in mind, he isn’t deterred for long. Isa would benefit from a reading of The Rules. She would then know that by denying Barth, she’s making herself all the more desirable. Her loudly declared intention that she will definitely not be marrying Barth makes him that much more determined to change her mind. And throwing another man into the mix, even if he is an absent-minded scholar, only fires Barth up even more.
What’s truly fun about the book are Barth’s machinations to get the girl. He tries everything he can think of, but it’s only when he comes to a full realization of his feelings for Isa that he becomes a person she can accept in return. That’s where the only true depth in the book lies. My wishing for more exploration of these characters and their relationship doesn’t negate the enjoyment I had. Think of Julia Quinn in a much abbreviated form and you’ll understand.