Avon Impulse, $3.99, ISBN 978-0-06-230486-5
Historical Romance, 2014
Wed at Leisure follows Woo’d in Haste, and both novellas are the author’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew into a tale of two very different and antagonistic sisters who find love and, somewhere along the way, manage to reconnect again. Woo’d in Haste is lighter in tone, as while Wed at Leisure has comedic elements, the heroine Catherine Mansfield – the shrew – has some baggage that can cut deep sometimes.
Peter Colburn, the Duke of Orland, and Catherine know one another since way back, as they grew up in neighboring estates. When Catherine’s sister Bianca and Lucian, the friend of Peter’s younger brother Reggie, are doing their thing, Reggie asks Peter to distract Catherine by being charming or something so that Lucian can get Bianca to agree to marry him in good time. Catherine has decided to throw a house party in her father’s country home at a most inconvenient time, you see, and nobody must be alerted to Lucian’s secretive wooing of Bianca as the Mansfield household has a rule that Catherine must marry first before Bianca can do so. Yes, I think it’s best if this novella is read after Woo’d in Haste, as the plot here is connected to that in the other novella.
Anyway, Peter agrees, and falls in love with Catherine in the progress, much to the horror of the people around them. Will his deception come back to bite him in the rear end?
What I really like about Wed at Leisure is the author’s treatment of Catherine. Catherine is a selfish and spoiled lady, yes, but there is a reason why she turns out to be this way, and I find her a pretty unhappy creature that I can’t help but to feel sorry for. You know how sometimes a person can be so used to being called inferior or good for nothing that she starts believing that she is a horrible person, and ends up using her bad behavior as a shield to keep people away without even realizing what she is doing? That’s Catherine. And when she realizes just how far she has gone to the point that she may have lost her sister for good, her reaction is heartbreaking. I won’t say that I’d enjoy being a good friend to Catherine, but I do find some things to admire in her. She’s determined, she isn’t afraid to go for the things she wants, and she can be pretty smart too. I find Catherine a pretty complicated yet fascinating creature.
Peter is a more straightforward character – ex-soldier war hero Duke, et cetera – but his attraction to Catherine makes sense. He may be the only person in Catherine’s part of the world who understands how parents could pit one sibling against another in a manner that can permanently drive a wedge between the two siblings, and therefore, he is also that person who would never hesitate to defend her even if this makes him the only fool standing up in the entire room. I don’t know if she’s good for him, but I do know that he’s good for her, and I like Catherine enough to want to see her happy.
Wed at Leisure has the usual limitations of a novella – accelerated pacing and such – but it catches me off guard with the author’s delicate handling of Catherine’s character. There is a depth to her character that I don’t come across every day even in full length novels, and I appreciate the author for not taking short cuts here by having Catherine be more of a stereotypical repentant goody-goody martyr sort, which would be far less of a risk than what Catherine is in this story. Even more impressive is how this story charms me without making me wish that it is a longer story. It ends on the right note – just right, and I can’t be any happier.
If Wed at Leisure had been a full-length novel, it’s an easy four-oogie read to me. But the fact that it’s a novella, and it manages to floor me this well… I guess I just have to toss in another oogie for that. So here you go, have one on me. It’s been a real pleasure.