Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3224-3
Historical Romance, 2014
Camille, Lady Lydingham, and Grayson Elliott are getting married. Our story begins a little earlier, when Camille and her family crossed the Atlantic to visit her husband-to-be in New York. Camille’s very proper widowed sister Delilah attended a costume party, met a handsome stranger, and lost all her inhibitions along with her clothes in the process. Oh, it was a one-off thing, an adventure to remember, no prostitutes here – same old story.
Still, Samuel Russell knows that she’s related to Camille somehow, and looks forward to attending the wedding in Millworth Manor in a few weeks’ time. He is the best friend of the bridegroom, after all, and he’d love to see her again. On her part, Delilah intends the whole thing to be a one-off thing, a memory of a lifetime moment even as she looks for a suitably titled wealthy English man to be her new husband. She must treat Samuel ghastly to keep him away, although a part of her really likes it when he comes sniffing around her.
The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride is a pretty accurate title for this story, but I must confess that, for a long time, I don’t understand what Samuel sees in Delilah. She treats him like he’s someone else’s gum stuck to the sole of her slipper, except when she wants an itch scratched, and Delilah doesn’t have even a decent sense of humor or joyous personality to make up for her treatment of him. Maybe he likes to be treated that way, I guess? At any rate, Delilah is a pretty unfortunate heroine because her refusal of Grayson fuels a big chunk of this story, and she’s a drab and dour fusspot during this while, so the book is very easy to put down as a result. Her “one night only, no repeats” antic makes sense in that she needs a wealthy husband to stave off a looming potential financial battle with the heir of her late husband’s properties, but her behavior is textbook annoying heroine material and the poor dear doesn’t have the compelling personality to overcome the fact that she’s a walking and talking stereotype.
This story is a romance of manners, and there is a vivid cast of secondary characters to keep things lively, but the heroine is such a drag and her beau ends up being known as that guy who for some reason has it bad for Delilah and keeps going back for more punishment.
The second half or so of The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride is a much better read, when Delilah shows that there is something recognizably human beneath the perpetually frowning face after all, and her interactions with Grayson start to resemble less of a repetitive sitcom and more of something two people who like one another would do and say the other person. Still, it’s hard to get warmed up to the story as the first half or so is more of an unfunny farce to slough through.
If the author had been more consistent and the first half of the story is as solid as the second half, this one would have been a great read. As it is, The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride requires some patience to get into the swing of things, and I’m not sure whether the better second half can really make up for Delilah’s tired song and dance in the first half of the book.