Saturday, April 10, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: The Reluctant Bride by Natalie Kleinman

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

The Reluctant Bride by Natalie Kleinman is a pleasant, old-fashioned, squeaky-clean Regency Romance. 

Charlotte (now Lady Cranleigh) is a young widow. She’d been forced by her nearly impoverished father to marry an older man to rescue the family fortune. The man, the Earl of Cranleigh, was kind enough that she couldn’t hate him, just the circumstance. A few weeks into the marriage, the earl conveniently fell off his horse and broke his neck. Charlotte had to spend the next year in mourning although she wasn’t grieving. She weathers that and emerges ready to face the world, now essentially emancipated from her controlling father. She is also able to support her younger sister and the cousin who raised them after her mother’s death. So, life is good and she has no real desire to change things.

Charlotte enjoys her return to society and finds herself (and her sister and cousin) attracting the interest of beaus. One of these, Lord Roxburgh, is a stereotypical villain, who pursues her for her fortune and is willing to use foul means and fouler to obtain her. The other is her late-husband’s cousin, the duke of Gresham. He attends to her first out of duty (having inherited the late earl’s property and title) and then out of affection. 

The courtship progresses slowly. Charlotte is the last person to see Gresham’s interest and to recognize her own. The hero and heroine are kind, proper people. Gresham is a bit too perfect to make for an interesting character, and Charlotte, too, is fairly bland. The conflict is subdued, largely external, caused by Lord Roxburgh. Gresham has money to burn and is able to make the conflicts disappear with a degree of tact that eliminates any disagreeableness. The climax of the story introduces the real hiccough. I was a bit disappointed that it was an over-used plot element in the Regency Romance genre. Many of the plot elements in the book are familiar ones. And that’s OK since there are only so many available plots in the genre, so mixing and matching is typical. But there wasn’t enough originality in this story overall to bring it alive. The conversations were gently prim and muted, without witty banter. The few arguments seemed contrived and were quickly forgotten.

For those new to Regency Romance, the story is sweet and the protagonists entirely unobjectionable. The book is a fine addition to the genre. For those who read a lot of Romance and are looking for something cleaner and quieter, this succeeds. But if you read a lot of Romance and like variety, you may find this one treads too much familiar territory to stand out.

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