Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: At the Bride Hunt Ball by Olivia Parker (4.5 stars, historical)


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Setting: 
  • Regency England.

Characters: 
  • Heroine: The heroine is the most endearing hoyden I've ever come across. She's clumsy, impulsive, disregards all sense of propriety, snoops unabashedly... and all she wants is to be accepted for herself, to be allowed to accept who she is. Her unkind stepmother is her only family left, and all the stepmother cares about is the heroine making a match that's most advantageous for the stepmother. She frequently belittles the heroine.
  • Hero: The hero starts out as yet another arrogant and rakish duke. He does not wish to marry, because he does not want to be like his father who neglected his mother. The hero does not believe he will ever find a perfect woman that he could love forever.

Plot: 
  • Because the hero does not believe he will ever marry, he wants his younger brother - heir presumptive to the dukedom - to settle down. The brother reluctantly agrees, so the hero sets up a scenario loosely resembling the television series "The Bachelor." The hero gives invitations to seven women deemed by him and his sister to be the most appealing debutantes currently on the marriage market. The invitations allow them to attend a country party of sorts, where the brother will get to know the women and pick one to be his bride. The heroine is one of the women receiving an invitation, because the hero's sister believes she will be a breath of fresh air.
  • As the book opens, the heroine sees a solicitor approaching her with a white envelope. Realizing it is a coveted invitation meant for her, she bolts - trying to run away from the solicitor - and grabs a lemon along the way to use as ammunition. These few pages show the reader exactly what kind of story this is. Absurd, but in a fun and comical way. The heroine has no desire to be a part of the arrogant game, and no desire to win - she knows both the brothers to be infamous rakes who will likely break the heart of anyone married to either of them.  The hero is intrigued by the unusual behavior, and is able to discuss the heroine's frank opinion before she learns he is the duke. She eventually decides to attend the house party, both because of a bit of blackmail on her stepmother's part and because she wants to protect her close friend. The heroine gets into a great number of scrapes throughout the party, like climbing out her window and trying to view private galleries. To the hero's great surprise, he finds himself charmed by this good-meaning yet impulsive minx. She is most definitely not the perfect duchess in many respects, but he finds she is perfect to him.

What I did like: 
  • The lightheartedness. I started reading the novel with the understanding that it was a lighthearted and fun read, and that's precisely what I got. There were definitely parts that were not entirely logical, but they were overlooked by a frequently comical and action-filled storyline.
  • The characterizations. The heroine, of course, shines as a clever and rambunctious woman who it is very easy to root for. But the hero also becomes more than the rakish duke stereotype, as he comes to accept the heroine even more than she accepts herself.
  • The romance development. For the most part, I very much enjoyed the developing relationship between the protagonists. A very authentic friendship is formed between the characters, despite their attraction to each other. And from this friendship comes a very sweet affection, especially as the hero becomes smitten by the heroine's unconventional looks and personality.

What I did not like: 
  • The animal attraction. The only part I didn't like about the romance development is were the moments when the physical attraction felt over the top. There were times when the repressed lust and smoldering looks seemed a bit ridiculous, particularly on the behalf of the hero. I think - in reality - he would have a little bit easier time keeping it in his pants.
  • Part of romance conflict. Parker handles the majority of the romance conflict well, addressing a serious potential problem why the heroine would not want to marry the duke. But the author also throws in a very silly conflict, where the heroine lies defensively just to drag out the conflict resolution more. It was a little disappointing.

Overall: 
  • Olivia Parker's At the Bride Hunt Ball was an extremely enjoyable historical romance. It contains endearing characters, a sweetly authentic romance, and a great deal of fun comedy. I recommend it to anyone who likes a romance that doesn't take itself too seriously.
*There were a couple of moderate love scenes in this novel.

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