TEMPTING THE BRIDE – Sherry Thomas
London and Kent, England, 1896
David Hillsborough, Viscount Hastings, was an early bloomer in one respect. He fell in live as a youth with the twin sister of his best friend. Unfortunately, it seemed to take him forever to grow into his full height. He and Miss Helena Fitzhugh were of an age, but she was inches taller than he at the time. He could hardly risk her disdain by telling her how he felt so the only way to garner her attention was by being obnoxious. To this day, just short of his twenty-seventh birthday, Hastings still loves Helena…and he's still obnoxious to her. Their relationship is seemingly one of mutual dislike, verging on hatred on her part.
Helena has also been frustrated in love. The man she fell for knuckled under family pressure to marry the woman he'd been all but promised to. That marriage is not a success; husband and wife are rarely seen together. When Helena came of age, she turned her focus on a career and has become a successful publisher of books. Mr. Andrew Martin is still in her heart, however…and her life.
Hastings has his suspicions, and at a house party that he, Helena, and Martin all attend, he watches her sneak upstairs to Martin's room. Some time later, back in town, Hastings discovers Helena and Martin plan an assignation at a hotel. It's a setup, however, concocted by a scheming old snoop. Hastings saves the day by making sure he is the one caught with Helena and quickly claims they are just celebrating their elopement. Helena has little choice but to go along. A ruined reputation would hurt her whole family, all her loved ones. They must marry for real.
Who knows how that would have turned out if an accident hadn't caused Helena to lose memory of much of her life, back before she and Hastings met. Now that her mind is a blank about him and their relationship, he has a chance to win her love and make their marriage real. Does he have a chance? What if her memory returns tomorrow?
Even set in the late Victorian era when the industrial evolution had wrought many changes in society, Helena and her family are rather unconventional. Certainly Helena, as an independent and bright woman, would fit in well today. It's a little harder to like Hastings after first with way he treats Helena with such disrespect. However, learning about his wretched childhood and the love he shows to his damaged illegitimate little daughter helps put him in a more sympathetic light. And the tender way he treats Helena after the accident is to his credit.
TEMPTING THE BRIDE will tug on heartstrings and bring on smiles in turn. The sparring between our hero and heroine can be amusing—and red hot! (Expect some pretty racy scenes.) On the whole, the good parts outweigh the few bits I wasn't crazy about, so consider it a recommended read.
(I've always enjoyed stories with amnesia; have you?)