The Bride Insists
Sometimes, when I read a book for review, I am pleasantly surprised to find a story with more than I expected. That happened to a degree with The Bride Insists. Were it not for a slightly jarring second half, I would likely give this book a strong recommendation but as it is, the book is still enjoyable enough to warrant a qualified one.
Clare Greenough has landed in a pretty miserable situation. Due to an entail, her father’s estate went to a cousin who used his good fortune to get back at the branch of the family by whom he felt slighted. Clare’s mother died after having been turned out of her home, and instead of a London season, she had to seek employment as a governess. When the book opens, we see her living in that awkward position somewhere between the employer’s family and the lower servants, with little freedom to craft her own life and the constant worry of providing for herself on a pittance of a salary.
Things change when news arrives of an inheritance. Clare has inherited her great-uncle’s fortune. However, said fortune will remain in the hands of trustees until she marries. Since one of the trustees happens to be her hateful cousin, the likelihood of her having a chance to better her situation appears slim. Therefore, she determines to marry. Through the machinations of a sympathetic solicitor, Clare is introduced to James Boleigh, a baron in dire need of funds to restore his estate. The two decide to marry but make it clear that this will only be a business arrangement. In fact, Clare insists upon the signing of an agreement that will allow her to control her funds.
The opening chapters of this novel set the stage uncommonly well. With a few sentences, Ashford is able to show the heroine’s daily life as the monotonous pit of despair it has become, and also establishes her as a strong-willed, sensible young woman. Likewise, she provides us with a hero who has good intentions and a likable quality to him, even as he obviously also displays a weakness for drowning his problems in drink. As Clare moves toward procuring a husband and finding out how to manage her new good fortune while James tries likewise to figure out how to rescue his estate from near-ruin, I found myself naturally inclined to cheer them on.
As James sets his estate to rights and Clare starts to settle in there with his younger sisters and the staff, it appears as if the couple will smoothly fall from like into love. However, the author again does a good job, this time of setting the stage for conflict. Gradually over several chapters, she shows readers images not only of Clare and James growing in affection for one another, but also of their weaknesses and of the brewing issue of family financial control that gets swept under the rug repeatedly until it just can’t be done anymore.
Unfortunately, once the conflict heats up, the story bobbles a bit as well. The conflict and the characters’ initial reactions make sense, but then we reach a point where, instead of discussion, we get ridiculous antics. And it didn’t help that James behaves especially badly and doesn’t grovel nearly enough. In fact, I kept wondering just how well he really had learned his lesson.
While I found The Bride Insists a bit frustrating toward the end, I did primarily enjoy the story, and in addition to the main plot, it has a charming secondary romance. If you like stories that are on the subtler side and can be patient with some of the main couple’s antics, this one might work for you.