The Bachelor Trap
The Bachelor Trap hasn’t quite got the unique sparkle of some of Thornton’s other novels, but I appreciated the large cast of characters and her knack for keeping things flowing.
Lady Marion Dane is practically on the shelf and happy to be there while her younger sister Emily takes the spotlight. Brand Hamilton is the illegitimate son of a duke (accepted by his family though barred from inheriting the title), who is also a powerful newspaper owner and aspiring politician. As an old friend of the family, Brand looks out for Marion and her sisters as they make their way through the Season. He’s also investigating the disappearance of one of Marion’s aunts from many years earlier at someone else’s behest. The last thing Brand is looking for is a wife, but to his surprise he finds himself taking a more personal and protective interest in Marion when accidents start to befall her.
The plot essentially revolves around the threats to Marion’s life, Brand’s growing interest in Marion (which begins as protective, but doesn’t stay platonic on either side), and secrets from Marion’s past, including the mystery of Marion’s long-absent, presumably dead aunt. But is she really dead…or did she elope…or did she have an ill-fated affair with a married man?
Thornton keeps the story flowing smoothly, using an ever-changing cast of characters with their own back stories and crisp dialogue. The mystery was well-plotted throughout, though I felt that the whole question revolving around Marion’s aunt wasn’t always engrossing. My bigger objection is that there wasn’t enough tension and excitement in the romance to keep it going in a satisfactory way till the end. This is partly because Marion is slightly on the bland side – she’s a bit too responsible, taking on too many burdens and making too many sacrifices and is often outshone by her younger and more energetic sister. She spends much of her time being insecure, as well as unwilling to trust Brand, which outrages him (twice).
The other issue is that most major obstacles to their relationship are resolved long before the less-compelling mystery is solved at the very end. Thornton happily manages to get Brand and Marion to strike some sparks at the beginning of their relationship, and I enjoyed their earlier scenes. I only wish that the conflicts and tension in their relationship went on for more of the novel.
However, I did find Brand intriguing because of his circumstances and his decision not to become bitter about his illegitimacy. He takes his responsibilities to his family very seriously, even though he is not the duke and he could have turned his back on them. I appreciated this unique setup, and also liked the many other side characters, including Brand’s other relatives who add their own unique presence, as well as his friend Ash (presumably the hero of the next book). Brand is also a very good older brother to Andrew, the present duke. Andrew has a small part in a very sweet side romance with Marion’s younger sister, and I admired Thornton’s light touch with this subplot. Sometimes less really is more.
I also enjoyed the author’s refreshing refusal to wrap everything into a giant bow by the end. Some characters have a surprisingly bitter ending, but it’s apparent that their actions merited it.
This romance is not what I consider Thornton’s best, but overall the read was still refreshing for so many of the little things that she does in her writing.