Desert Isle Keeper
My Favorite Bride
I’ve not read Christina Dodd in 2 1/2 years, and, after reading the reviews on her last two books, I had basically written her off. But that’s before I read Jane’s review, which you’ll find below mine. Although The Sound of Music is not a favorite movie for me, any time I encounter such enthusiasm and/or remembrances of things past, I’m automatically engaged. And Jane’s reminiscences of the Plummer/Andrews classic as a result of reading My Favorite Bride were so delightful that I bought the book and read it immediately. I enjoyed this book even more than Jane; it’s a DIK for me. And none of my delight has to do with The Sound of Music; if I hadn’t read Dodd’s comments that the book is an homage to the movie, I’d never have made that leap myself, singing sisters in color-coordinated frocks aside. In fact, Dodd included a teeny, tiny nod to Gone With the Wind that had me LOL.
Miss Samantha Pendregast has just been let go from her umpteenth position as governess. This former pickpocket was taken off the streets of London and given the Eliza Doolittle treatment by Adorna, Lady Bucknell (a character I’d adored in Rules of Surrender), who runs the Distinguished Academy of Governesses. Given her difficult past, however, she has a tough time handling the injustices she encounters in her positions and is always let go without a good reference. In her last position, for instance, she could not countenance the mistreatment of her charge by his influential father and so informed the gentleman’s wife about the existence of a mistress, and convinced the mistress to leave the gentleman. It wasn’t bad enough she was fired and given a black eye, the gentleman is spreading false rumors about her that Adorna will counter by spreading some false rumors of her own. But in the meantime, Samantha must leave London and is assigned as governess for Colonel William Gregory’s six hellion daughters. The law-and-order widower seeks to run a tight ship, and though he loves his daughters, hasn’t a clue how to handle them, particularly since most of their governesses last but a few days.
Samantha’s first meeting with Colonel Gregory does not go particularly well and the two are predisposed to dislike one another. Samantha’s got a smart mouth, and street-smarts as well. While all of this comes in handy when dealing with the Colonel’s devilish daughters, it doesn’t make a good impression on the Colonel. And his black-or-white morality doesn’t sit well with Samantha, who realized the hard way that the world is filled with shades of gray.
Though it’s an uphill battle, it becomes apparent early on that Samantha and William are made for each other. She’s strong enough to tell him off when he needs telling off, and beneath it all, he’s got the wit to keep her on her toes. The book features a beautiful sort of symmetry in the episodes involving these two. One scene early on – involving Samantha, William, and his daughters, a bridge, and a ton of mud – tells the tale. The girls are out to “get” Samantha, who manages to teach them a lesson instead. And William, bothered that Samantha hasn’t kept the girls on his planned schedule, gets a bit of the devil in him, then gets his own comeuppance from Samantha. All is right with the world.
The sexual tension between Samantha and William crackles even though he’s decided to marry the friend of his dead wife. Lady Teresa Marchant has been hinting for years that she’d like to assume her place at his side. She’s lovely, proper, and everything a man could ask for, even if he’s more alive after five minutes fighting with Samantha than he’s ever been with her. And when his friend Duncan tries to convince him that it’s Samantha who’s got it going on, he refuses to listen. Duncan, btw, is a terrific secondary character (especially terrific at needling William and Teresa), and Teresa is far more dimensional than the author initially lets on.
There’s a substantial sub-plot involving spies that comes to a head and threatens to destroy any chance at happiness Samantha and William could have. The way Dodd writes it – again – is a masterful work of symmetry, but to tell you what happens would constitute a spoiler. Suffice it to say, Samantha’s past is involved. The inclusion of this sub-plot lowered Jane’s assessment of the book from DIK status to a B+; it didn’t do the same for me. Why not? Dodd is so good at writing horrible people from the inside out that I wasn’t distracted from Samantha and William when reading about the baddies.
Dodd’s love scenes are terrific, not that she makes it easy for these two to get together. But when they do, touches of humor and anger add to their lovemaking, making the scenes all the more exciting as well as fun. Some may find it odd that anger could add to their lovemaking, but it’s nearly a Dodd trademark, and she makes it work, quite possibly because it’s never mean-spirited. At times the anger and the humor mix together, which is all the more sexy fun.
Not that the book is all fun and games. William’s full acceptance of Samantha’s past given his moral rectitude takes some time, but how it comes about is actually sweet. He doesn’t just listen to Samantha and/or his friends and change his mind; it’s only when he’s confronted with something at a primal level that his good-or-bad/black-or-white attitude changes. I’ve read some criticism that the ending is rushed, but I adored it myself. This is a well-paced book featuring several very strong characters who eventually get what they deserve. My Favorite Bride left a tremendous smile on my face, and a renewed interest in an author I’d given up on.