The Scoundrel's Bartered Bride
The Scoundrel’s Bartered Bride, while still better than many of the historical romances released in the past few years, struggles somewhat with plot and character development and so earns only a mild recommendation from me.
Ten years earlier Lady Lydia Barton fell hard for a stable boy on her estate. She and Owen Wolfe dreamt of a time when they could be together, but then Owen was charged with stealing jewels from Lydia’s dying mother and shipped to Botany Bay. A devastated Lydia pledges to never forgive him and tries to move on with her life. But now Owen has returned as the successful, mysterious owner of a popular gaming club and Lydia’s family is on the brink of financial disaster. Their only hope is to marry Lydia off to the highest bidder.
Owen has never forgiven Lydia for believing that he stole the jewels. But he can’t sit around and watch her be shackled to an old lecher, no matter that the lecher is a marquess. Owen ‘outbids’ said marquess and offers Lydia an alternative – which she reluctantly accepts. The plan is to be married in name only, to barely see one another and to eschew the marriage bed. They rush off to Gretna Green and then back to London to their separate lives. But Lydia’s family has disowned her in an effort to ‘save face’ with the marquess – even though they begged her to marry Owen and fill the family coffers with more money. Lydia has no one to turn to, except Owen. But how can she turn to Owen when she still believes that he stole from her family and when Owen can’t forgive her for thinking him guilty?
What an idiot! What a huge mess! And now they were stuck with each other. Her with the utmost reluctance and him more than a little bit devastated at that insurmountable fact. If only he had the evidence. The undeniable proof she had asked for…? His teeth ground together as the usual anger simmered, because evidence or no, she should have believed him.
A marriage of convenience between two parties who used to love each other is an intriguing premise. While not admitting it to themselves, it’s obvious to the reader that Owen and Lydia still have deep feelings for each other – feelings clouded by their mutual distrust. When he returned to England, Owen tried without success to find proof of his innocence, and now that Lydia is his bride, it is imperative to their future that he finds that proof. Unfortunately, finding the truth will uncover many challenges for Lydia.
I really enjoyed the story of Lydia and Owen struggling to be with each other in spite of the past hanging over them. Unfortunately though, I never got a strong sense of Owen or Lydia as individuals. We are told that Owen is now a man of mystery but we are never shown that side of him. And I had trouble remembering that Lydia is now a lady of twenty-six years and not the sixteen year-old innocent Owen first knew; she comes across as much younger than twenty-six. I also had trouble believing that Lydia truly thought Owen guilty of the theft. She is adamant in her conviction of his guilt and I found myself mad at her for not believing in the young Owen. The writing was also a little looser than Ms. Heath’s previous novels – like it was in need of one last round of edits..
So, why the recommendation? Well, in the end, a middling book by Virginia Heath still stands above the average historical romance on the market. There are great secondary characters and a satisfying story to be discovered behind the thefts ten years earlier, and there are also some tender scenes in which Lydia and Owen rediscover each other. So The Scoundrel’s Bartered Bride was a hard one to grade! I will be interested to hear what other readers think – be sure to comment if you read it!