A Wedding by Dawn
Make no mistake: Lady India Sinclair is totally stupid. But it’s not for the reason she thinks. She’s obviously (to the modern reader) dyslexic, a condition that says nothing about her intelligence. Her desire to lose her virginity to random, rough looking sailors so she can be free to steal a ship and live her life out as a pirate (of sorts) is another matter.
Nicholas Warre needs cash to save his property, and the best way to get it is to drag India Sinclair back to England as his wife. If he can accomplish this feat, India’s father will give him fifty thousand pounds. Dragging India back to England is no simple task, however. She is currently in Malta, having stolen a ship from her friend with the intent of ruining herself and escaping her father. Once she loses her virginity, life will just be one lark after another, because when you lose your virginity no man will want you, and you can just do whatever the hell you want all the time.
When India and Nicholas meet, India’s determination to throw herself at a random Egyptian sailor causes a fight in a tavern. Nicholas saves her, captures her, and tells her he has a contract signed by her father authorizing him to marry her. India wants no part of this, of course. She flatly refuses to marry him and begins hatching a plot to escape.
And actually, that is exactly what most of the book is. India plotting to escape, India escaping, India thinking maybe she’ll sleep with some random man to get out of marrying Nicholas, Nicholas catching India in the nick of time, and the whole cycle restarting at the beginning. You might think, reading the title of the book (A Wedding by Dawn), that this would be a story about a quick, perhaps forced, wedding and a couple who then gets to know each other and falls in love. In the end, they do get to know each other and fall in love after marrying, but there is nothing quick about the process. If we established new “truth in romance book titles” rules, this book would more actually be called A Wedding after Many, Many Interminable Dawns, Long Days, and Equally Ponderous Nights and Evenings.”
During this portion of the book – which again, is most of it – I basically wanted to throttle India. The author attempts to explain India’s behavior with her back story, in which she is repeatedly locked up and denied food by her father because she can’t learn to read. Of course, that’s horrible. However, her alternative plans are completely ridiculous and not well thought out. Not wanting to marry a man you hardly know – who just needs your money – makes sense. Hoping to avoid the marriage by getting into increasingly unsafe and sketchy situations does not.
While all this is going on, Nicholas and India become attracted to each other. The attraction appears to be on a purely physical level, because neither one particularly likes the other. However, some of their encounters make India realize what she is missing out on by refusing to marry Nicholas.
After what seems like forever, India and Nicholas finally manage to get married. Mostly because of his illegitimate half sister who’s a laundress, but that’s a story for another time. And then a funny thing happens – the book gets interesting. This took me completely by surprise, as I had long since given up hope of getting anything out of it at all. But once the inevitable happens, India grows up overnight, finally realizing that the life of a de-flowered pirate may not be all it’s cracked up to be after all. The conflict evolves from India escaping and being recaptured to India and Nicholas solving their (considerable) problems together.
As a connoisseur of C reads (I just counted, and I’ve written 262 C level reviews, which I figure makes me an expert), I will say that A Wedding by Dawn is actually my favorite kind of C read. I always prefer the type that starts out poorly and gets surprisingly interesting. That beats out promising-and-then-bad and consistently blah any day. That said, it is very annoying in the beginning; the minus after the C is well-earned.
I also have to say a few words about the secondary characters. There are tons of them, many of whom you’ve already met if you’ve read the earlier book, A Gentleman Till Midnight (I haven’t and I won’t). They include laundress sister and Millie (India’s companion who has considerable back story and is clearly being groomed for future heroine status). There are also a few friends and relatives of Nicholas, none of whom I could manage to keep straight. They made an already somewhat over-loaded story a bit more over-loaded, but Millie actually seems kind of promising.
It’s kind of too bad this book is already on the verge of publication, because I think there’s actually a good story in here somewhere. What I would do is make the wedding actually happen by dawn (the first dawn, not the 38th dawn, or however long it really took), so the characters could get to know each other and really solve their problems together. Well, maybe next time. As it stands, I don’t think many people will read far enough to get to the good part.