Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

Series: Chance Sisters (Book #2) - all can be read as standalones
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Release Date: March 26 2014
Tagged under: 2014 read, historical romance, romance, review copy, 4
Pages: 336
Buy at: Amazon, The Book Depository

They both thought they'd never marry...

Damaris Chance's unhappy past has turned her off the idea of marriage forever. But her guardian, Lady Beatrice Davenham, convinces her to make her coming out anyway - and have a season of carefree, uncomplicated fun. 
When Damaris finds herself trapped in a compromising situation with the handsome rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes, she has no choice but to agree to wed him - as long as it's in name only. Her new husband seems to accept her terms, but Freddy has a plan of his own: to seduce his reluctant winter bride. 
Will Damaris's secrets destroy her chance at true happiness? Or can Freddy help her cast off the shackles of the past, and yield to delicious temptation?

Book Review [Relatively Spoiler-Free]

I was extremely excited to pick up this book because I am a huge fan of historical romance and it has been a while since I have read one. The book synopsis sounds good and there's nothing I love more than a compromising situation bringing together two reluctant individuals who end up finding everything they have ever wanted in each other. The premise of this book is a familiar one and I was looking forward to an enjoyable read.

I totally underestimated how much I would enjoy this book.

Damaris' haunted past is heavily foreshadowed in this book. Right from the beginning, you as a reader realized that she strongly believes she is not suitable for marriage and her one goal in life now is to be truly independent - live in a cottage somewhere with her own garden and animals to tend to. No more relying on others. There is less risk that way. Her fortunes will be solely based on her own actions and not the wills or desires of others.

Freddy Monkton-Coombes, on the other hand, is a rake of the highest order. With his own secrets lurking behind his playful facade, this wealthy eligible bachelor is determined to avoid being trapped by a muffin (eligible young females who want to ensnare him in marriage). So when his mother forces his hands, he had to come up with a plan - and fast. Before muffins from all over town descend down on him.

Admittedly, this is a very familiar premise that has been played out in other historical romance works. However, once you start reading the book, all thoughts of comparison fly out the window. Both main characters are well fleshed-out and relatable. Damaris is sweet and rather than complain about her life and how she got to where she is, she simply takes stock of her situation and attempt to make the best of it. She is trying to be the maker of her own destiny, often coming across to Freddy as being stubborn. 

Freddy Monkton-Coombes, or Hyphen-Hyphen as some characters in the book call him, is also charming and lovable. He is truly a mixed bag. His abject horror to literary society and the muffins that he comes across is laughable at times. Yet rather than flee, he doggedly remains because of his promise to his best friend. He is often coming across as happy and without a care in the world, yet there are times where his facade would drop away and reveal the real man hidden beneath.

The chemistry between the pair is palpable yet not too overly done to come across as forced. With plenty of humour thrown into the mix (experimental Chinese swimming pigs come to mind!), Anne Gracie wields a deft hand at creating an enjoyable ride that blends the light-hearted banter with serious issues, character development with plot advancement. There are some beautiful passages in here with some character introspection. My favourite one is still:

There were parallels here, she realized, even though their lives had followed very different paths. It was a discomforting thought. It was so much easier to look at someone else's situation and see what should be done than to apply the same principles to your own problems.
Was that arrogance? Or cowardice?
Having already introduced all the characters in the first book of the series, The Autumn Bride, there is a lot less character introduction in this book which is welcoming. And even for new readers of this series, the characters aren't that hard to pick up as Anne Gracie gives enough background information to get you up to speed.

Admittedly, there are some areas that I found was a bit excessively done. The foreshadowing of Damaris' past was slightly heavy-handed. Literally every time the protagonist has a conversation with someone, be it her sisters, aunt or Freddy, there is brief hints about her past, which isn't ultimately revealed until the latter half of the book. But that is really just a minor complaint of mine.

Overall: 4/5

This is a solid read, a really good example of how entertaining historical romance works can be. Definitely comes recommended for all your romantics out there and I'll be waiting for the next book in this series in 2015. 

Disclaimer: A complimentary Netgalley copy of the ebook was provided to me by the author and publisher in exchange of an honest review. The views expressed above are entirely my own and are in, no way, affected by the source of this book.

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