A Rebellious Bride
Quinn Peverill is the daughter of a wealthy American merchant. Her mother was of an excellent English family, which gives her an entrée into British society. Quinn’s father is anxious for his daughter to be accepted by society, and it would be good for business if she made a respectable match. Quinn, though, is a headstrong and independent lass with little interest in the stuffy ways of the ton.
For no particularly persuasive reason, immediately upon arriving in England Quinn dresses in a boy’s clothes and goes to a bad section of London. She has some idea of helping an unfortunate urchin, but accomplishes nothing at all except the ruination of her own reputation. She encounters Lord Marcus, the rakish youngest son of a duke, talking to a group of street youths. Along with the boys she follows him to his house, where she is seen by a gossipy noblewoman. At a party the very next day, they must stem the tide of malicious gossip by claiming to be engaged. But Quinn’s social-climbing father intends to make the sham betrothal a real one.
In the quick engagement and marriage that follow, Marcus has a secret that he must keep from Quinn, whom he barely knows and dares not trust. He is the notorious Saint of Seven Dials, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. (The Saint of Seven Dials was first introduced as Marcus’ friend Luke, in Rogue’s Honor. When Luke found his own HEA ending in that book, Marcus took over his swashbuckling activities.) In a nice Scarlet Pimpernel twist, Marcus pretends to be a pompous bore in Quinn’s presence, so that she won’t guess his secret.
I’ve always liked the Scarlet Pimpernel story and I’m always willing to buy variations upon that theme. Marcus gets off to a rocky start as the Saint of Seven Dials, and he trusts people far too easily, but still, I enjoyed this part of the story. I also liked how it formed the conflict between himself and Quinn: increasingly he loves her, but he must push her away by pretending to be something he is not. The tension builds nicely.
Obviously, in order for this sort of plot to work, the hero must have some reason for not trusting the heroine. In this case, the reason is that Quinn is bratty, immature, and too stupid to live. She already has a low opinion of Marcus for honorably offering to marry her to save her reputation – the nerve! Determined to be free, before the wedding she runs off to the London docks, where she is promptly kidnapped and must be rescued. Even after she and Marcus are married – even after the marriage is blissfully consummated – she thinks of herself as a prisoner and plans to escape and go back to America.
Quinn wholeheartedly believes Marcus’ attempts at seeming staid and uninterested in the poor. His attempts at disguising his true interests are usually thin and contradict his behavior, but Quinn is only too eager to seize any reason to judge Marcus poorly. She enjoys hot sex with him by nights, while during the day she is contemptuous of him for being “stodgy,” avoids him on flimsy pretexts, and embarks upon her own foolhardy scheme to help the less fortunate in spite of him.
Pretty soon both Quinn and Marcus are embarking upon nocturnal visits to London’s slums, and Quinn has begun to exchange letters with the Saint of Seven Dials through channels that are far less convoluted than she thinks they are. The really interesting question – what the servants think of all this – is never answered.
A Rebellious Bride could have been a lighthearted romantic romp. Due to its unlikable heroine, it was instead a book that I found hard to finish. While I enjoyed the hero and the setup of the plot, it was difficult to believe that Marcus, or any man of intelligence, could fall in love with the annoying Quinn. And when the romance doesn’t work, well, it’ll take more than the Saint of Seven Dials to save the book.