A Bride Unveiled
When I finished reading Jillian Hunter’s A Bride Unveiled, I decided to write a review at once. Unfortunately, this wasn’t because the book had been so enjoyable that I needed to share the news; it was because any delay might lead to my forgetting what I’d read.
Miss Violet Knowlton first meets Kit Fenton when she’s thirteen and he’s only a few years older. A lonely orphan who lives with her aunt and uncle, she sees a boy fencing with shadows in an abandoned graveyard. Intrigued, she starts to visit the graveyard as well, and soon enough she meets the boy. Kit Fenton is a foundling who’s grown up in a workhouse, meaning he’s the last person in the world who her uncle, Baron Ashfield, would want her to associate with.
But Violet finds Kit brave, exciting, imaginative, and kind to anyone in need. She’s so sheltered, though, that she doesn’t realize how horrifying his life in the workhouse is, and Kit is not about to tell her. Their friendship ends when he’s sold to a cavalry captain, and although they make a pact to meet in a decade’s time, they don’t expect to see each other again.
Ten years later, Violet’s uncle has died, making her aunt that much more overprotective of her. To that effect, her aunt has arranged a match for her with Sir Godfrey Maitland, owner of an emporium. He has good manners and will support her comfortably. Most of all, he’s not a rake.
Needless to say, when Violet sees a performance given by the students of an Academy of Arms, she’s fascinated by the master swordsman, a man surrounded by an aura of danger. They meet without recognizing each other, but he’s just as attracted by the lady who leaves him with a sense of déjà vu. It’s only later that she discovers he’s her childhood friend made good – and who’s now handsome to the point where women throw themselves at him. But Violet is engaged, and she can’t worsen her aunt’s ill health by scandal of any sort.
There is literally nothing keeping Violet and Kit apart other than her efforts to make her aunt happy. Since everyone else can tell that she and Kit are perfect for each other, one of her friends abandons her in a “Pavilion of Pleasure” and then sends Kit in to escort her out (naturally, he seizes the opportunity to make out with her). The friend’s footman agrees that Violet and Kit are destined to be together. Another acquaintance invites them both to her house, then is conveniently elsewhere when they arrive.
All this is necessary since Violet is usually the passive recipient of Kit’s affections, and there’s a limit as to how much flirting and kissing he can get away with otherwise. They’re both nice enough people, if you overlook the fact that she’s engaged for most of the book, and he knows this because her fiancé pays him for fencing lessons in a hopeless attempt to look dashing. This was disappointing because the start of the story hinted about the horror of the workhouse:
It was the touching Kit couldn’t tolerate. He’d learned how to defend himself at an early age against the calloused hands that stole under his blanket.
I love a tortured hero, so I looked forward to reading more about him, but this story is too light and low-key to accommodate anything like the aftereffects of attempted sexual assault. In fact, any potential obstacles to the romance are easily eliminated. At the end, Kit becomes a baronet – perhaps because an untitled man just can’t be the hero of an historical romance – and everyone lives happily ever after.
This book is part of a series, and it shows. There are a lot of references to the Boscastle family, and characters remind each other of relationships and scandals from previous books, so readers who enjoyed the rest of this author’s novels could do worse. Personally, though, I’ll look elsewhere. There was nothing very wrong about A Bride Unveiled, but there was nothing very right either.