Spenceworth Bride is the second in a duo of time-travel romances in which the respective heroines trade bodies and experiences. I had not read Sixpence Bride, the first of the two, before reading this one, but it didn’t make any difference since Spenceworth Bride stood on its own as a light, entertaining way to while away a rainy afternoon or a few train rides.
In 1799 Ramsgil, England, an unhappy, “troublesome” young bride is taken to a bride sale by her obnoxious lout of a husband. Nelwina Ham sits on the block amid the jeering villagers and wishes as hard as she can to be taken far, far away from the nightmare that is her life. The next thing Nelwina and readers of Spenceworth Bride know, her wish is apparently granted and she wakes up in present day Ramsgil during an historical re-enactment of the same kind of bride sale she once endured.
Adam Warrick, an architect from Chicago who has unexpectedly inherited the title and lands of the Earldom of Spenceworth, attends the bride sale re-enactment out of curiosity. He certainly doesn’t intend to participate, though with a comely brunette named Jocelyn Tanner playing the part of the bride, it doesn’t seem as if it would be much of a hardship. He’s chosen to be the bride’s buyer, and given a sterling pound to make the purchase.
That’s where things go awry. Instead of buying Jocelyn Tanner, a southern tourist on vacation in England to recover from a broken engagement, Adam buys Nelwina Ham, who has inexplicably switched identities with Jocelyn on the sale block. Nelwina awakens from a faint to find herself in a strange body, in a strange place (even though they keep telling her it’s Ramsgil, it’s not the one she remembers), convinced that she’s now betrothed to this handsome young Earl of Spenceworth. He’s equally convinced that she’s had a concussion or some other brain injury from her fall on the sale block since she doesn’t seem to know who or where she is. Worried for her safety and nonplussed by her certainty that they are now betrothed, Adam takes her back to Spenceworth Manor so he can keep an eye on her while he tries to find out who she is.
A frothy yet still affecting tale, Spenceworth Bride features engaging characters, especially Nelwina. Obviously stunned by the change in her circumstances, Nel does the best she can to fit in, and learn about her new surroundings, all while staying as unobtrusive as possible. She longs to be back home where she understands her role, but, at the same time, Nel relishes her new freedoms and the people she comes to know. Her relationship with Adam’s bossy mother Sophia is fun because the women clearly enjoy each other so much.
The relationship between Nel and Adam is more complex since both are reluctant to act upon their strong attraction. She hesitates because she wants to return home and doesn’t believe they’ll ever be able to marry. He balks because he’s convinced that she’s addled in the head and he doesn’t want to take advantage of her. Despite their mutual wariness, they slowly become friends during their time together at the manor, squabbling good-naturedly over Mallomars and discussing plans to renovate the ruined gardens. It’s a believable friendship that slowly blossoms into something more.
Adam is almost ridiculously noble in this novel: Just why does he feel so responsible for Nel, anyway? Nevertheless, the two are a fitting pair in that they’re both so darn good you can’t help but root for them – even if they do get a bit cloying at times. Some of the plot elements regarding his troublesome financial situation and his mother’s meddling were annoying, but it was easy to skim over them. (This is the kind of book where you can do that without losing any momentum.) Likewise, an ongoing plot thread related to Jocelyn Tanner’s ex-fiancé made me scratch my head throughout much of the book, but it did turn out to be a necessary to the successful resolution of the story.
Spenceworth Bride is sweet and funny at times, and is overall a pleasant read. It won’t stay with you in the way of deeper, more emotional romance novels, but it is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.