The eldest of the Duke of Bransford’s three sons, Royal Dewar has lived the past seven years in Barbados overseeing the operation of his family’s plantation. He’s called home to his father’s death bed and is shocked to see the family estate in great need of repair and missing many of its paintings and household furnishings. His father refuses to die in peace unless Royal agrees to marry Jocelyn Caulfield, a beautiful heiress with an incredibly large dowry. Quite ashamed about the fact that the family fortune is gone and uncertain just how it happened, the duke takes great comfort in knowing Jocelyn’s dowry can restore the dukedom to its former glory. Royal feels a sense of rebellion at the thought of his life being dictated to him – yet again – but eventually agrees to the match.
Jocelyn is a self-centered young woman who loves attention, a lavish lifestyle, and the thought of becoming a duchess. Her orphaned third cousin, Lily Moran, has acted as her companion and servant since coming to live with Jocelyn’s family six years ago. Lily doesn’t hold similar high expectations for her own life and simply wants to own a millinery shop some day. A talented hatmaker, she designs and creates hats in her spare time and has a number of influential clients. She’s been saving her millinery proceeds for years and is close to having the necessary funds to open her shop.
When Royal reluctantly arrives at the Caulfield residence to meet his future bride, he mistakes Lily for his intended and finds himself rather taken with the young woman. Discovering the actual identity of Lily and refocusing his attention on Jocelyn is a bit difficult, but he knows it’s necessary and assures himself that marrying such a beauty can’t be all bad. But try as he might, Royal can’t keep his mind off Lily and she can’t keep her attraction to Royal a secret either.
I must admit that I’m rather fond of the “guy is betrothed while in love with another” setup and Kat Martin plays it to the hilt. It’s a typical marriage of convenience triangle and I found myself truly sympathetic to Royal and Lily’s plight despite the fact that the script they must follow is predictable. However, Royal’s continued powerlessness eventually looked more like emasculation and that sense of defeat made me irritable – literally.
Another plot device that demands a good deal of attention is a game of conning the con artist. Upon discovering that his father’s financial losses are due to fraudulent business investments, Royal is determined to not only find the scammer but to set up a scheme to retrieve some of the lost fortune. The scam is actually Lily’s idea (she’s got a background of conning with her uncle) and she becomes deeply involved in the scam to the point of big danger. I truly did not enjoy Lily’s participation in this con game, but I did appreciate the numerous opportunities it provided for Royal and Lily to see each other.
Royal’s Bride is the first of a trilogy and, fortunately, doesn’t bear the burden of introducing numerous future characters. I was well aware that brothers Rule and Reese were waiting in the wings for their own stories, but this felt like Royal and Lily’s story exclusively with only a secondary romance involving Jocelyn.
Royal’s Bride has a bit of an old fashioned romance feel that I have come to expect from Kat Martin. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. This time it did – for the most part.