Never a Bride
“He has a scar on the back of his neck.” According to the back cover blurb, that’s what Mirabella Whittingham knows about a man she thinks is responsible for the death of her best friend. So what does our intrepid heroine do? She decides to kiss all the men who danced with her friend in order to feel their necks. Sound like a ridiculous plot? Well it is and it isn’t.
This book is a study in contradictions. Mirabella’s silly plan is offset by her otherwise fairly intelligent behavior. She meets the hero in the kind of cliché setting that plagues historical romances. Mirabella has left a party and is alone on a London street when the hero makes his appearance. He’s Camden Thurston Brackley, Viscount Stonehurst, although Mirabella doesn’t know that. All she knows is she shouldn’t let him know who she is. She kisses him and leaves. She doesn’t know he’s the fiancé she hasn’t seen in six years. Neither figures out the identity of his nighttime counterpart was until a few days later, and again this author turned a trite device into something else.
Camden has only returned to England to claim his bride at the urging of his destitute family. He’d been engaged once before and had that relationship end in a very public, humiliating way. When he witnesses Mirabella’s plan in action he’s outraged. He will not marry a woman with a ruined reputation. What could have been written as a Big Misunderstanding becomes something else. Camden and Mirabella actually talk to each other. No one stomps off in a huff. It’s quite refreshing.
Still, the strengths don’t completely negate the weaknesses. Mirabella’s plan is ridiculous and the man responsible for the death is pretty evident from the beginning. The scene where she confronts him comes right out of Heroine vs. Villain 101 as do some of her other attempts to unmask the man. This made for fairly bi-polar reading on my part. In one moment I wanted to hurl the book, the next I was admiring how intelligently the hero and heroine dealt with each other.
Amelia Grey is a pseudonym for Gloria Dale Skinner who, from what I can tell, has concentrated on Western Romances in the past. This fact is evident in the way she uses titles in this regency historical. When a Countess introduces a Duchess she does so in a distracting way.
“Oh, Duchess, come let me present you to – ” the Duchess responds with “No, thank you. I hear your husband is looking for you, Countess Glenbrighton.”
Now, I’m not sure this is technically incorrect but it certainly sounds awkward. There is very little use of Your Grace or Lady so-and-so, just Countess this or Duchess that. This usage took me out of the story a little bit each time it occurred.
My grade reflects the uneven balance that is this book. B+ for a hero and heroine pairing that is uniquely mature in their responses to each other and D for the uninteresting plot they’re forced to inhabit. I’d love to see similar characters in a story that did them more justice.