In Sixpence Bride, American Jocelyn Tanner participates in a cheesy wife auction as part of her English tour package and ends up traveling back in time to the year 1797. There she finds herself part of a real wife auction, and before she knows it she has been purchased by a nobleman.
Garren Warrick would rather not take a bride just yet, but after an assignation with a widow causes a scandal, his father demands that he marry within a month. Garren is not particularly attracted to any of the ladies of the ton, so when he finds a bride for sale in Ramsgil, he bids sixpence for her and wins the auction. His bride is obviously a commoner, so he figures she won’t mind if he just leaves her at his estate while he spends most of his time in London. However, it soon becomes clear that Jocelyn is no ordinary bride. She is clearly educated, yet she uses strange words and seems ignorant about etiquette. Garren thinks she may be at least a little mad, so he leaves her at his home without consummating the marriage. When he gets to London he sends his father the marriage certificate.
Jocelyn is pretty shocked about her time travel experience. Not only has she gone back almost two hundred years; she also has a different body which is much plumper than the one she left behind. She immediately begins exercising to firm herself up, and her strange movements frightens the staff. She’s not sure what made her travel back in time or how she can get back, but she is happy to settle in and learn more about her surroundings. Meanwhile, Garren’s father Richard is curious about his new daughter-in-law, so he journeys to Garren’s home to meet her. The two establish a rapport, and he even helps her prepare for her first society event, a masquerade ball.
Garren comes home for the ball, and he is surprised to find that he wife is quite changed. Then she is kidnapped from the ball, and during his frantic efforts to locate her he realizes that she is becoming important to him. For her part, Jocelyn finds Garren very attractive, but she’s not sure she wants to remain in 1797. She knows if she is to have any sort of long term relationship with Garren, she will have to tell him where she comes from. But will he ever be able to believe her?
Sixpence Bride is mostly a fun book. Silly and not terribly historically accurate, but fun. There are the usual fish-out-of-water gags, which are pretty funny. Jocelyn’s reactions to eighteenth century conventions are believable, and her twentieth-century inspired costume for the masquerade provides some comic moments. The book provides a lot of action too, so it moves along at a fast pace.
However, the book lacks an authentic feel. The author includes a lot of small historical details, some of which are very interesting, but the characters still don’t seem like they are in 1797. The problem is mostly rooted in the modern-sounding language (and names) of the characters, particularly the hero. The descriptions of his clothing are also a little off; they don’t quite match the time-period.
It was also hard to truly connect with the hero and heroine. An action-packed plot can be a good thing, but here it detracted somewhat from the romance. At just over three hundred pages, this was not a long book, and the romance seemed to suffer a bit. By the end of the book Garren and Jocelyn are in love, but I was never sure just how this happened.
Still, Sixpence Bride is a diverting book (not bad at all for a first effort), and I found myself wondering if Virginia Farmer is planning a sequel. Jocelyn actually trades bodies with another woman, but we never hear about what happens to her counterpart who journeys forward in time. Perhaps there will be a book about her? If you like light time travel tales, this one may be worth a look.