The Wedding Bargain
If you enjoy light and humorous historical romance, I’d encourage you to try Victoria Alexander’s newest release (and first book for Avon), The Wedding Bargain. Fans of Julia Quinn will likely appreciate Alexander’s style. In The Wedding Bargain, she has created a cute premise and fun characters.
Pandora Effington is in the middle of her seventh season, but few would dare to call her “on the shelf.” Her beauty and charm are widely acknowledged, and more than one duel has been fought over her. She also has the dubious distinction of being called “the Hellion of Grosvenor Square.” While Pandora is vivacious and spirited, in her heart of hearts all she really wants is the kind of love her parents share. If she can’t find it, she vows she’ll remain unmarried forever.
Maximillian Wells, Earl of Trent, has been admiring Pandora from afar for some time. He’s sure that she would make a perfect bride for him. When he proposes, Pandora accepts – on the condition that he pass a certain test, to be determined the next day. Should he fail to pass the test, Pandora will not marry him, but will choose another bride for him instead. Inspired by her parents’ passion for the antiquities, Pandora chooses the twelve labors of Hercules as Max’s challenge.
At first such a test seems completely impossible; how can Max really be expected to capture the wild bull of Crete or the girdle of the Queen of the Amazons? But slowly and creatively, Max starts to pass the tests. Meanwhile, he and Pandora are both falling in love with each other – and both too afraid to admit it! Pandora is especially torn. She really wants to marry Max, but she still wants to win the challenge (which quickly becomes the talk of the ton) for pride’s sake. Will they be able to admit their love for each other in time, or will they be torn apart by pride and misunderstanding?
The inventive plot of The Wedding Bargain really drives the book. Max’s quest quickly becomes all-encompassing; he spends almost all his time meeting the challenges and spending time with Pandora. The result is a book full of delightful interaction between main characters. Though it seems to take them forever to get together, they quickly fall in love. Their reactions to their feelings are realistic, and they spend a lot of time examining them. The book is brimming with lively dialogue and amusing action – it’s fun from start to finish.
There are several charming secondary characters as well, most notably Pandora’s best friend Cynthia. Cynthia starts out as something of a mouse, but really comes into her own during the course of the book. Also enjoyable are Pandora’s parents and Max’s friend Laurie.
The only problem I had was with the single love scene, which could have been better timed. I would have liked to see at least one more at the very end of the book, perhaps as “icing on the cake” in an epilogue. Otherwise, I found this book very enjoyable – and the perfect medicine for a bad winter cold!