Friday, December 21, 2012

The Other Guy's Bride by Connie Brockway (5+ out of 5, historical)

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Thoughts After Reading:
It has been far too long since I've read one of Connie Brockway's historical romances. I have fond memories of the handful of books by Brockway that I have tried in years past, and consider her The Bridal Season to be one of the best romances I've ever read. Happily, this pattern of excellence holds true for The Other Guy's Bride, Brockway's most recent publication. The novel is largely set in Egypt, containing an adventurous plot that feels like a cross between a Western and a Regency setting. There are a number of characteristics that make The Other Guy's Bride a superb piece of writing. The frequent humor was as clever as it was hilarious, leading me to laugh out loud even as I eagerly waited for the conflicts to be resolved and the HEA to come about. The romance was both meaningful and convincing, despite the fact that the majority of the romance development occurred within the first third of the novel. Even more important, the larger-than-life protagonists were fully fleshed out as people - characters with backstories that can inspire empathy, characters with realistic hopes and dreams, and characters who the reader comes to adore. It is vastly enjoyable to see the heroine undergo significant character development, to see the hero to fall head-over-heels in love, and to see their story end on a triumphantly happy note.

Having been born to a family of well-respected archaeologists, the heroine has always felt a pressure to succeed. In some ways that works for her - she has the spirit of a scholar and a historian, and can chatter indefinitely about the many historical mysteries and details she finds so fascinating. At the same time, however, she's is full of unbridled enthusiasm; an adventurer at heart. She values her independence more than anything, loves to explore and try new things, and - as a result - frequently gets herself into unintentional predicaments. The book opens with the heroine traveling back to her family home in Egypt. She resents the fact that her close acquaintances view her as a klutz of sorts, someone who was inept at working on dig sites when she was younger. She plans to prove herself to the word by discovering an ancient city based on research she recently unearthed. The heroine is a big believer in letting fate help her out, so - when an opportunity presents itself - she jumps on the chance that will give her protection on a route towards the location of the lost city by masquerading as a new acquaintance of hers. The acquaintance is betrothed to a colonel who lives at a fort deep into the desert, but who ends up being delayed.

The hero is one of the men that is to escort the colonel's "fiancée," in payment for a debt. He was chosen because he's a capable adventurer and gunman himself. The hero is one of those guys who is very honorable at heart, and whose life never seems to work out particularly well because of it. He grew up on a ranch in America, and then moved in with his English grandmother when his parents died. His grandmother was a malicious woman who hated the hero and thought the family name meant everything. The hero fell in love at a youthful age to a young woman, but the grandmother destroyed the relationship because it wasn't a woman of her choosing. Since the grandmother held control of the family's finances, the hero makes a deal with her: he will go away and agree to fake his own death, so that the hero's half-brother will inherit a dukedom. In return, the hero's maternal family will retain property in America. So the hero - distraught that his betrothed gave up on him so easily - joins up with the French Foreign Legion and has traveled the world since. He is extremely attracted to the heroine from the moment he meets her, and grows to truly appreciate her for being herself - chatty nature, sweetly optimistic outlook, impulsive actions, witty tongue, and all.

I began to hate the novel - just a bit - when the conflict first pops up about halfway through the novel. I couldn't imagine a more trite misunderstanding than the one introduced: the hero and heroine make love, and then the hero hopelessly muddles the proposal with words of honor and apology even though he knows he has fallen in love. And then, of course, the misunderstanding spirals even bigger because of the lie the heroine is living. With that being said... if this well-worn conflict had to be used, I can't imagine anyone integrating it better than Brockway did. Rather than having the conflict halt or slow down the plot progression, the plot action starts to speed up. The hero never quite gives up on the heroine, and it eventually leads to a poignant - if exaggerated - romantic resolution. In fact, I think there were about three separate romantic (almost over-the-top romantic) scenes towards the end of the novel. I don't want to give too much away, but it is really quite touching how much the hero accepts and cherishes who the heroine is, always needing to love her, always needing to help her out of the scraps she gets into, always needing to be a "hero" for her.

I overwhelmingly enjoyed Connie Brockway's The Other Guy's Bride. It would be impossible for me not to  have found the book delightful, what with its lovable characters and enthralling plot. The novel is truly romance at it's best: a comedic storyline and a poignant relationship, all rolled up into an engaging historical adventure.

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