To Tempt a Bride
To Tempt a Bride wasn’t a bad story, but the bland romance and characterization made for an only average read.
Miss Camille Croft is a tomboy. She’s blunt, fun-loving, athletic, and gregarious. She receives many offers during her first season in London, but she hasn’t accepted any of them since none of the proposals were in any way romantic. Camille knows she’s a good pal to her male friends, but she wants more for her marriage. Specifically, she wants Eric Ford.
Eric is her brother Miles’s friend and has made himself available to launch Camille socially. Camille has known Eric is the one for her since she first saw him. He’s the only man large and strong enough to make her feel dainty and feminine, and he’s good to the core, besides. But Eric keeps his distance in order to give Camille the opportunity to make the best match she can. He doesn’t feel eligible to offer for her because he’s still suffering the after-effects of malarial fever, and he doesn’t know if his condition will be fatal or not. Their friendship is stumbling along unsatisfactorily until Eric unexpectedly encounters a young girl, Nell, being sold on the streets. She claims to be of good birth and forced into her situation against her will, and Cammie, being the good-hearted girl she is, offers to take Nell under her wing. But in doing so Cammie is terribly afraid she’s making a mistake – because Nell is beautiful and dainty and now in Eric’s company all the time. Cammie wonders if her good deed will spoil everything for the two of them.
To Tempt a Bride has two problems: the romance is tepid, and Layton spends more time than she should on characters that aren’t important or very interesting. Cammie and Eric are both nice people. They are easy to like. But the main thrust of Cammie’s angst is that she’s big and just attractive, not beautiful. It’s true that she’s measuring herself up to her gorgeous sister-in-law, Annabelle (from To Wed a Stranger), but, really, compared to any number of people Cammie encounters in the story, she’s got it pretty good. The scene when she comes to terms with her looks just seemed silly, an excuse for a love scene that wasn’t necessary.
Cammie and Eric are clearly meant to be together. Eric’s illness is only a flimsy excuse for a conflict, and the resolution of this problem is unsatisfactory. The main tension in the story comes from the presence of Nell – which seems somehow unnecessary, though she is the most interesting character on the roster. Her true character is revealed slowly, though all of the other characters are united in their suspicion of her from the minute she appears, which does tend to dispel some of the tension. The wedge she creates between Eric and Cammie and how she repays Cammie’s goodness provide some of the most page-turning sections of the book.
It’s clear that this romance is one of a series because previous couples appear throughout adorned in their marital/parental bliss. A reccurring villain also makes an entrance and an exit. I’m not sure if fans of the series will appreciate the anti-climatic third act Layton wrote for him or not. Without revealing his fate, let’s just say that it left me unsatisfied. The scales of emotional justice balance for every other character in the story, the result of which is a pretty saccharine last chapter. And a warning for those readers who don’t appreciate head-hopping: there’s a fair amount of it throughout the story, especially during the love scenes.
To Tempt a Bride wasn’t an awful read. Most of it went by fairly quickly. But if you asked me how this book differs in content or quality from a hundred other Regency-set historicals, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. So a “C” seems an appropriate grade.