Despite plot problems, character inconsistencies, and a carload of anachronistic language, I ended up liking His Betrothed more than I thought. The quote on the cover vaunts this as a riveting emotional read. While it’s neither riveting nor emotional, it’s a quick read with a hero and heroine who really are a perfect match.
Lady Roselyn Harrington is a girl about four hundred years ahead of her time. When she arrives on her (arranged) wedding day to Sir Spencer Thornton, she takes one look at the arrogant scorn on his face, turns on her heel and flees, publicly embarrassing Spencer, his parents, her parents – and making a legal marriage for herself or Spencer impossible due to the conditions of the betrothal.
Two years later, Roselyn finds herself completely alone. She had married her father’s stable hand (outside the Church). He husband believed he would come into some bucks when he took Roselyn to wife, only to be disappointed when her furious parents didn’t provide a dowry for her. Within a year Roselyn gave birth to a baby girl. But tragedy followed in the form of the Black Death and now Roselyn’s husband and child are gone. To support herself, for her parents abandoned her completely after her refusal to marry the man they had chosen, she is the village baker who lives in a cottage at the estate on which she grew up, and now which belongs (unbeknownst to her) to Spencer.
Not marrying Spencer didn’t nullify the betrothal agreement; Spencer still collected the dowry. But unless he can get the queen to release him from the agreement, he can never marry. All this becomes moot when a wounded Spencer, now spy for the queen, washes ashore on the estate beach. Roselyn finds him, drags him to her cottage, and proceeds to patch his wounds and save his life. (How a gently bred, spoiled, idle young noblewoman knew how to clean and sew wounds and set a broken leg and make a splint, was a little incredible to me.)
At first, Roselyn and Spencer don’t recognize each other, but when they do, the anger and conflict (and attraction) begins. Spencer is half Spanish and speaks the language fluently (which is why he was in service as a spy for the queen). Because Spencer doesn’t tell Roselyn what he’s been up to, she’s not certain if he’s a traitor, so her plan is to keep him at her house until she can figure out whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy. Since Spencer has a broken leg and can’t walk, this is not hard for her to do.
Roselyn is a changed woman. No longer the petulant girl who believes in romantic love, she has become pragmatic, self-sufficient, and strong. Her vacillation throughout the entire book of Is-he-a-traitor? Is-he-not-a-traitor? eventually becomes old and stale. However, Roselyn’s actions are in keeping with her character.
The big problem I had was that all Spencer had to do was tell Roselyn what he was doing on a Spanish ship. The truth. He knew that she was an English patriot and should have enlisted her help. But no, the two of them do this trust-no trust-trust-no trust thing through the whole book when a little heart-to-heart would have cleared up everything.
The secondary characters are nicely done, but if you’re looking for anything even remotely close to an Elizabethan tale told in the language of the day, you can forget it. The dialogue could have taken place at nearly any time in history (including sometime last week). And don’t even look at the cover of the book. Never at any time in the story is Roselyn dressed like that, and even if she were, she would have been a couple of hundred years into the future.
For the most part, Spencer is encumbered by his broken leg and splint, but he sure doesn’t have any trouble getting rid of it when it’s time to have sex with Roselyn. And for somebody trying to hide out, he doesn’t seem to understand that long walks (with his cane) around the estate and near the village are probably not the wisest things a person who’s trying to keep a low profile should do.
But, as I said, despite all the problems that exist in His Betrothed, it kept my interest and the author’s readable style moved me through the story at a decent pace. If my instincts are correct, it looks like Alex, Spencer’s tormented younger brother, may be getting a story of his own.
If you’re looking for a light summer read and don’t want to be bothered with all that historical accuracy stuff, give this one a try. It’s not a great read, but it’s nice enough.