The Bride Hunt
The Bride Hunt is the second in the Duncan sisters trilogy and the stronger title of the two. Part of that success comes from the pacing. Because Ms. Feather introduced the Duncan sisters so thoroughly in The Bachelor List, she was able to give a little more time to Prudence’s romance this time around. That being said, there’s still too much going on, and as a consequence the romance gets a little lost.
It is the early 1900’s in London and the womens’ suffrage movement is well under way. As part of that effort the Duncan sisters, Constance, Prudence, and Chastity publish The Mayfair Lady. Their anonymously written newspaper combines society gossip, matchmaking, and women’s issues, and it’s the last of these gets them into trouble. Their scathing and true article about the abuses of a peer of the realm generates a libel lawsuit. The only solution is to hire a hard-charging and brilliant attorney who can represent them while preserving their anonymity. Enter Sir Gideon Malvern.
When Prudence first approaches the ambitious barrister Gideon only agrees to see her so that he can give her a piece of his mind. His opinion of the women behind the newspaper article changes when he meets Prudence. They immediately strike sparks off of each other and Prudence challenges him to take the case and prove it’s not impossible. Though he intends to say no, Gideon surprises himself and Prudence by taking the case. And because the Duncans have little money Prudence offers to find the barrister a wife to take care of him and his daughter.
Prudence and Gideon are a well-matched pair. Since they are equally strong and intelligent their dialogue crackles with energy. And whenever they’re on the page together the story flies by. Problem is, they’re too little on the page. It’s nice that the relationship between the sisters is not neglected, but they have so much going on that it begins to detract from the actual romance. In addition to finding evidence to support their lawsuit, working on their newspaper (while keeping their anonymity), and keeping their father unaware of their doings, the sisters have also undertaken a matchmaking service.
That matchmaking service is simply unnecessary. It does nothing to advance the romance or the supporting legal plot. Prudence and Gideon already have reason to spend time together and through the strength of their personalities will struggle plenty. Coupled with that is a problem that arises out of Gideon’s past. Other plot points aside, one the biggest stumbling blocks concerning the marriage service is the very unrealistic way in which it’s run. It was frustrating to have to spend time with this, not to mention that doing so weakened the rest of the story considerably.
As a longtime fan of Jane Feather I’ve always thought of her as an author who pushes the envelope. No two of her heroes or heroines are alike and love them or hate them they certainly leap off the page. Whatever her characters’ strengths and flaws, she’s able to make me care in each and every case. I cared about Gideon and Prudence and their relationship. If only they hadn’t gotten a bit lost amidst everything else.