My Favorite Bride, by Christina Dodd

>> Thursday, January 09, 2003

Yesterday I read Christina Dodd's My Favorite Bride. I was hesitant to read this one, because I haven't had the best experiences with her books. I hated 3 of them (A Well Pleasured Lady, Rules of Surrender and Candle in the Window), but then, I loved That Scandalous Evening, so I know she's capable of writing something I like.

Plot summary:

When Miss Samantha Prendregast arrives at Devil's Fell to take charge of six rebellious girls, the vibrant, outspoken governess is not quite prepared to deal with the tall, dark and dashing master of the grand estate. The children she can manage with intelligence, guile ... and a little bribery. Their widowed father, Colonel William Gregory, is not so easily charmed -- and far too easy to fall in love with, which she dares not do.

William always cherished the orderliness of his life, until this captivating troublemaker began flouting his authority and distracting him with her witty defiance and breathtaking beauty. Despite the fact that they clash at every meeting, William finds himself inexplicably drawn to Samantha's fire. And now he's even contemplating marriage, which would be sweet madness indeed.

But before he can successfully woo her, William must discover what it is that Samantha is hiding from him. But the secret the lady is preciously guarding is far too shocking and dangerous to ever reveal ...

I liked this book very much, but it had a fatal flaw which prevented it from being a keeper (more on that later). Still, a good, solid B .

The story was great fun. I enjoyed the nods to The Sound of Music. Jane's AAR review puts it perfectly:

"Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews did a fabulous job with longing glances, but because of the medium we never get to fully know what they're thinking. And when it gets down to it, we don't know who these people are outside of this relationship and the events that are happening to them right now. Why was Maria so set on being a nun in the first place? What happened to the Captain's wife other then that she's dead of course? And how was the sex?
Here we can find out. ;-) The problem is, it feels like Dodd tries too hard to make William resemble Captain von Trapp, when William is his own character. Details like the rigorous discipline enforced on his daughters didn't make much sense when you listen to his thoughts and watch his behaviour.

I loved the "other woman" (it would be the Baroness in The Sound of Music, right?), and in fact, I liked her better than the heroine. Dodd did a good job with her, daring to let her and Sam be friends.

Also good: the Lake District setting (I'd love to visit), the girls were ok, and the spy subplot. This last was light enough, and Dodd doesn't overwhelm us with many boring details. Most of it takes place off-stage, and the final confrontation scene was narrated in a very original manner: completely from the villainess' point of view.

The flaw I mentioned earlier comes late in the book, when William finds out that Sam had been a pick-pocket. I hated him then. Self-righteous, pig-headed prig! Who does he think he is, to go around judging people and making blanket judgements? "Once a thief, always a thief". Moron. Luckily, he does grovel in the end, and Sam, unlike many heroines, really does feel that what he's done is pretty unforgivable, and very nearly doesn't forgive him. However, his change of mind comes from self-serving reasons, and I didn't really buy it. Oh, and the sex (I don't want to call it love) scene when he decides he's going to marry Sam to keep her from "wreaking crime" on London! I despised that forced seduction scene.

Anyway, though the ending almost spoiled the whole book for me, I enjoyed the rest tremendously, so I'm giving it a good grade.

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