First Season/Bride to Be – Jane Ashford

I should almost hate this book. Without books like this I would have given up on romance novels ages ago. But this book – these two books, actually, since it’s an omnibus – was (were) quite good. I was shocked.

The first story concerns a young widow, Anabel, who never had a Season, but decides to bring her children to London and sit in on one now as her mother is sponsoring an awkward (overweight) young woman. Her dear old friend and neighbor in the country, Christopher, misses her, decides to finally tell her he loves her, and follows, by which time she has become a bit ensnared by a man with a reputation as a roué.

Those children are one of the drawbacks of the story. Anabel tells her dear old friend, “‘You spoil them so, Christopher.’” Pot, meet kettle. “’Susan wants a gown exactly like this one for her birthday in September.’ ‘And doubtless she will get it,’ answered her mother dryly.” They don’t like London, and they never stop making it known. And one of them has this cat … Yeah. They are kind of awful. No, they’re kind of horrible.

I was a little annoyed also about the transformation of the debutante, Georgina. She “maintained her resolve to avoid chocolates and other sweets, and the effects soon became apparent. Georgina’s face looked more slender within just a few days, and her figure slowly followed” … *poof*. Within days, without extra exercise, she becomes the “after” in a Weight Watchers commercial.

This doesn’t sound like I enjoyed it, does it? But the fact that I did, despite all of the above, is down to the writing. I am not without complaint there either – there was head-hopping, and lots of it, to the point that it became confusing in places; the plot took an improbably dramatic turn that had me rolling my eyes just a bit – but on the whole it was enjoyable. You can’t ask for much more than that. Well, you can, but sometimes I just don’t.

The second story begins with the rescue of a young man (who turns out to be Lord Richard Sheldon) by an eccentrically-brought-up young woman (Emily Crane). There’s a fun back story for Lord Richard – he was a rake and hellion, but was lost at sea and presumed dead. He made it to shore and fought for his survival, and it has obviously changed him; now, coming home, he is just beginning to realize how changed his life is going to be. And not only does he have that to contend with, but apparently someone is trying to kill him.

While Emily’s parents were in many ways quite awful, I did appreciate the understanding that went into the writing about the art. “Her brush swept across the paper like a bluebird’s wing, and suddenly I couldn’t see anything else.

I genuinely enjoyed the writing, and the romance. I enjoyed the novelty of Richard’s story. It was a great deal of fun – both stories were.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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