Avon Impulse, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-06-241299-7
Historical Romance, 2015
Lady Sophronia Bettesford’s life is flashing in front of her eyes, and she sees chickens. All twenty-seven of them. Her father died recently, and Sophronia discovers that, contrary to her expectations, her father left behind nothing that she can use to provide for herself. Fortunately, a cousin – a widower – is willing to take her in. But she will be caring for his six kids, as well as his chickens, in addition to overseeing the upcoming village festivities. Sophronia tells herself that she is a fortunate lady, and she should be grateful… but still, chickens and kids, so many of them? When she receives a marriage proposal from a complete stranger, it actually makes sense to say yes.
The stranger in question is James Archer. He is a guy struck with wanderlust – he doesn’t like settling down in one place. His mother is pressuring him to settle down, and he doesn’t want to make both himself or his mother unhappy, so it seems like a good idea to ask Sophronia to be his fake betrothed for a month. They’d then go away, and James can tell her mother that Sophronia has met an untimely demise when she is actually enjoying her new seaside cottage, bought with the money James will be paying her for her service. Everyone wins!
Of course, she will win over his mother, he and she will fall in love, et cetera.
The packaging gives no indication of this, but No Groom at the Inn is a perfect Christmastime story. The author manages to capture very nicely the whole whimsical “dreams can come true” tone of such a story, and the result is a story that is charming and almost sparkly-magical at times. Both characters are likable, Sophronia doesn’t do the idiot “I must run away and refuse all payment even if it probably means I’d die on the streets – for his own good!” stunt that most heroines in her shoes love to do, and James is a pretty nice guy. The whole falling in love thing is sweet, adorable, and quaint; I go “Awww!” more times than I’d have liked to admit.
Just be careful, though – if you haven’t read anything by this author before, I have better tell you that she has a style best described as “girly cute”. Her characters can get pretty sickeningly sweet with endearment – “Sophycakes” and “Jamiecakes”, anyone? – and cutesy lines, and there are moments when the author can lay the sentimentalism pretty thickly. I find her style very appropriate and even right for a story of this nature, however, but other readers may disagree with me.
The only issue here is that, with this one being a novella, the relationship here never feels as developed as it could have been. But that’s okay – for what it is, the whole thing is good enough. There is charm, heartfelt sentiments, romance, and the whole “lonely woman with nowhere to go finds a new family” thing that I am always a sucker for. Even the whole cutesy-cutesy goo goo things like “Jamiecakes” are okay with me. There’s plenty of love for No Groom at the Inn.