The Bride Wore Blue
Originally published in 2002, The Bride Wore Blue is the first in Cheryl Bolen’s Brides of Bath series, and while the rest of the books could only improve from here, I won’t be checking them out. This was a tepid story with a helpless heroine and some irritating moments to break up the boredom.
In the prologue, Felicity, the sister of a viscount, is traveling to meet the man she is to marry. Then the coachman sees a man lying in the road, and after Felicity insists they stop to help, they find the man has been beaten and robbed by highwaymen. Felicity takes the man into the carriage and tears up her petticoat for bandages.
On the basis of this, the man, Thomas Moreland, falls in love with her; he “worshipped the very earth she trod”, we are told. Once he recovers, Thomas goes to India, makes a fortune in trade and returns to England. In Bath, he sees Felicity again, except now she’s been in widow’s black for four years. Nevertheless, she’s still young and beautiful, and Thomas is determined to win her hand, except she’s one of the ton and he’s a Cit. So he pays her brother’s gambling debts, then tells Felicity about it and asks that, in return, she sponsor his sister into society. She doesn’t recognize him as the man she saved and he doesn’t tell her anything about that.
It makes no sense to me that he’d keep this a secret, but if he didn’t, there would be no Big Misunderstanding later. Thomas is rich, handsome, and kind to everyone. He even becomes the secret benefactor of an Adorable Urchin called Jamie who can’t walk properly.
Thomas remembered the ill-formed bones of young sailors he had observed as a younger man. Was not the disease of rickets associated with lack of sunshine and lack of the sunshine fruits? “Tell me, Jamie, do you like oranges?”
No, rickets can’t be cured with Vitamin C! It’s one thing to have fat-shaming, women who shriek their dialogue, a one-dimensionally eeevil villain, and a lot of ‘tis, ‘twas and methinks (all of which are in this story). But there is no excuse at all for making such a basic mistake. The difference between rickets and scurvy is not a matter of opinion, and could have been ascertained from ten seconds on the Internet.
But back to the characters. Felicity is one of the weakest heroines I’ve ever read about. Firstly, she’s slow on the uptake. The moment her vivacious younger sister claims to be sick with a headache that keeps her from attending a ball, I knew the sister would sneak out, but Felicity doesn’t twig to this until she finds the sister’s empty bed. So she sends for Thomas, bursts into tears and throws herself into his arms. That’s not the only time she dissolves into sobs, either.
Then Thomas is assaulted by some random mugger, who steps on stage for the sole purpose of making Felicity remember saving Thomas, and then departs with his author-given job done. Felicity looks at the blood and faints. Finally, towards the end of the book, she’s stupid enough to go off with the villain and allow him to slip her a roofie, so she has to be saved by Thomas.
That said, I liked the fact that she was loyal to her husband’s memory, and it felt like a nice change from the usual unhappy first marriage. The story makes it clear that her husband was brave and kind and that she enjoyed being married to him. Then we get to the end, and she tells Thomas “That she loved him like she had never loved Michael.”
Why? I don’t get this. What’s wrong with loving them both equally, unless a woman is only allowed true love and a wonderful relationship with one man? And the story never even shows why her late husband, a captain in the army who was respected by his men and who loved her dearly, didn’t deserve the same depths of emotion that she feels for Thomas. I guess we’re meant to take it for granted that of course she didn’t love him as much, he wasn’t the hero. Perhaps he’s better off dead than in this story, poor guy.
People from other countries are depicted with even less respect. Italians, we are told, smell of garlic (and the sole Italian character, who speaks with a stereotypical accent, is a minor villain). Thomas claims a “Hindi woman” would be murdered by “her own kind” if she lived with an Englishman. He spent years in India but he might as well have been in Manchester for all the difference that makes, though fortunately this means there were no references to the Kama Sutra. Ultimately, The Bride Wore Blue is a dull, annoying read, and the lack of conflict, aside from the villain’s meddling, makes the story so light it’s practically airborne. You’re better off reading something – anything – else.