The Convict's Bounty Bride
With historicals a bit thinner on the ground these days, I find myself trying just about any that come my way in hopes of discovering buried treasure. One could plausibly argue that The Convict’s Bounty Bride deserves burial, but not because it’s treasure.
Since Escape is Harlequin Australia’s digital line, one might suspect this novella has an Australian tie – and it does. The hero, James Hunter, has recently returned from Australia. He served a sentence for a crime he did not commit and in the process, managed to make his fortune. Now he is back in England to secure the hand of his promised bride, despite the taint of conviction that would otherwise make him a less than promising prospect.
Lady Thea Willers isn’t about to take news of her impending marriage lying down. Oh no. Thea can stomp and pout with the very best of feisty heroines and on top of all that, she has spent a lot of time studying the work of Mary Wollstonecraft. It becomes obvious throughout the story that Thea is not terribly familiar with the life of her intellectual idol, but Thea is a Determined Feisty Heroine and small things like ignorance and naivete will never stop her.
And so a 65 page novella starts to feel like an epic slog. Upon reaching the end, I was astounded to learn that this story was so short. It really seemed much longer. As a historical, this one feels rather wallpapery and it has tiresome characters to boot. I had to feel sorry for James as he met his future in-laws: Thea’s goofy father, bossy and snooty mother, and laudanum-addicted brother. I’m sure he was wondering how he managed to get so lucky.
And then there is Thea. She proclaims her desire for a career, seemingly unaware that this wish is not only eccentric but completely unthinkable for a woman of her status at that time. Then again, Thea seems to lack a certain awareness and this leads to such amusing inner monologues as this one following an encounter with James, “No wonder women became courtesans. They did what she had done with James, and then got paid for it on top of that.”
James and Thea’s relationship is of the “I don’t want you, maybe I do, then again I don’t” variety, but it’s tantrum-throwing of a rather unfocused sort because Thea has trouble deciding what she really wants. On the one hand, she wants to worm her way out of the odious marriage bargain struck by her father and she tries various strategems to accomplish this. Then again, James really does appeal to Thea and she starts to kind of like him – or at least want him physically.
I couldn’t quite bring myself to give this novella an F because it did leave me with a smile on my face. I’m not sure I was amused for reasons the author intended, but the story has its moments nevertheless.