A Bride for the Season
Nothing’s more disappointing than a story where the author sets up a tough situation that will keep the characters apart for good, then provides a deus ex machina so that they get together. This may fit the definition of romance, but it doesn’t result in a wonderful read, and sadly, A Bride for the Season, by Jennifer Delamere, takes just this route. I was looking forward to it and most of the book was quite engrossing, which made the letdown all the worse.
James Simpson might be in need of money, but you’d never know it from his cheerful manner. He doesn’t take anything seriously, which makes him popular with the ladies thanks to his humor. This is something of a defense mechanism because his mother went into a depression and died young, after which his father drank himself to death, but on the whole, James enjoys life. This was one of the things I liked about him, that he doesn’t sneer at young ladies because they flirt or giggle. Instead, he enjoys their light-hearted approach. But he’s intelligent as well, and his latest pursuit is wet-plate photography, which takes a great deal of planning and skill to perfect.
Another enthusiast in this field is Lucinda Cardington, who is as much out of place in social gatherings as James is at home. Lucinda spends her spare time trying to improve both herself and the less fortunate, so she teaches at a school for ex-prostitutes and doesn’t plan to get married.
But her younger sister Emily fancies herself in love with James, so she sneaks off to a pleasure garden where James hopes to meet a dancer. Emily masquerades as the woman long enough to be caught in a clinch with James, so he has to ask her father for her hand. Her father agrees, with the proviso that James find a husband for Lucinda. No husband, no big dowry for Emily.
This was all very well done. I liked the setup and the fact that there was no easy way out for anyone. Best of all, James has a plan to deal with his problem. He makes a list of eligible gentlemen, ruefully crosses most of them out, gives Lucinda advice on presenting herself to her best advantage, and takes her out for a photography session so people will be aware of how she looks when when she’s enthusiastic and interested in something.
But all this makes him realize that he and Lucinda are so much better suited to each other than he and Emily are. Lucinda comes to the same conclusion, though Emily, who started to remind me of Lydia Bennet at this point, is of course bent on marrying James.
I was very curious about how the HEA would happen, because both Lucinda and James are kind and honorable people who won’t break Emily’s tiny heart (and reasoning won’t penetrate her tinier brain). On top of that, James convinces Daniel Hibbitt, a gentleman in his club, that Lucinda will make him a good wife, and while Daniel is staid and humorless, he’s a decent enough person who will allow Lucinda to do whatever she likes after their marriage.
You’ve probably guessed where this is going, but in case you haven’t, spoilers ahead. Emily, who had only days ago been stripping to her undies and throwing herself at James, conveniently falls for Daniel. There’s some handwaving to the effect that both Emily and Daniel like the theater, but for someone as superficial as Emily to want a man like this was unbelievable. It’s like some Pride and Prejudice bizarroverse where Lydia swoons over Mr. Collins.
On top of the sheer implausibility, this development means Lucinda and James don’t have to do much to secure their happy ending. Lucinda’s contribution is to ask God for instructions. He replies, “Wait.” So she waits till the end when James discloses the results of the bride swap, and they all live happily ever after.
Speaking of God, there was a touch of the inspirational in the first novel in this trilogy, but here, there are several references to prayer, belief and Bible quotations. Unfortunately character development wasn’t as pronounced. I wanted to see how James’s past affected him, especially in situations where a joke wouldn’t defuse tension, but that never happened. I’m also not convinced he’s as religious as Lucinda, which makes me doubt how happy they will be.
So ultimately, A Bride for the Season was not the success I’d hoped it would be, and I can’t recommend it.