The spirited Wylder sisters continue to scandalize the ton in Isabella Bradford’s witty and winsome trilogy. This time, the most impulsive of the siblings meets her match: a charming rake determined to save her from an arranged marriage.
The youngest of the Wylder girls—and the last left unwed—Lady Diana is also the most willful, a trait that’s leading her ever closer to dishonorable disaster. While her family’s solution is a fast and excruciatingly respectable marriage, Diana can’t imagine being wed to the very staid and dull Lord Crump. But while wedding plans are being made, a chance meeting at a gala turns Diana’s world upside down.
A kiss from a dazzling stranger gives Diana a most intimate introduction to one of the ton’s most resolute and scandalous bachelors, the Duke of Sheffield. Torn between family duty and her heart’s desire, Diana recklessly surrenders to the headiest of passions, recognizing that she has found a kindred soul in the handsome young duke. Soon it’s clear that seduction is no longer the game: Something deep and lasting has come to bind their hearts, and the stakes are nothing less than true love.
This is the third and final book in Isabella Bradford’s trilogy about the Wylder sisters. Having married off both Charlotte and Lizzie to suitable dukes, the focus now shifts to Diana, the youngest sister; but whereas both her sisters had been betrothed from childhood, no such arrangement was made for Diana.
Like her sisters, she is beautiful, vivacious and headstrong, and at the beginning of the story we are told that she has already got herself into several ‘scrapes’ with young gentlemen, the latest of which almost resulted in an elopement to Gretna Green. Because of this and the ensuing gossip, Lady Hervey (the girls’ mother) decides that Diana must be married off quickly so as to prevent either her ruin, or at the very least, more damaging gossip.
The gentleman fixed upon for her latest son-in-law is one Lord Crump, a very serious and proper widower, and of course, Diana is less than keen on the idea.
The hero, the Duke of Sheffield is another of the cousins descended – albeit on the wrong side of the blanket – from royalty and is thus related to both Marchbourne and Hawkesworth, the heroes of the previous two books in the series, and to Breckonridge, who has been his only family since the death of his parents. Sheffield has rather a reputation with the ladies, so of course Brecon tells him that under no circumstances is he to have anything to do with Diana.
Red Rag – meet the Bull.
Sheffield is also to be the beneficiary of an arranged marriage, but by a stroke of luck, hits upon a way of getting out of it while at the same time helping the lady chosen for him to marry her true love instead.
There are, naturally, obstacles and misunderstandings along the way for Diana and Sheffield, and it’s done with a very light touch. But it all feels very insubstantial, and most of these obstacles and misunderstandings are of Diana’s own making. And while of course, the “unwanted suitor” is a staple of romance novels, in this one, it’s so obviously just a flimsy plot device with no real reason behind it. Even before we meet him, it’s clear from just his name that Crump is never meant to be seen as a serious contender for Diana’s hand, and that there is never any real risk that Diana might end up marrying him.
The real stumbling block with this book for me though was the fact that it was impossible to believe that Diana’s mother and her sister Charlotte would think, for even one second, that Diana could have any chance of happiness with Crump. From what we’ve seen of them as a family, they’re closeknit and care very much for each other; Lady Hervey is not some sort of stately matriarch with no real interest in her daughter’s welfare, and Charlotte, while happy in her arranged marriage, can surely not wish her sister to be miserable. In promoting the match with Crump, it seems to me that they are behaving completely out of character – regardless of the fact that Diana’s antics have already got her a reputation in society for being somewhat flighy. They both spend all of the novel telling Diana how she will come to love her husband, and are unable to see how absolutely miserable she is at the prospect of marrying this dry stick of a man. It’s like they’re completely different characters to in the other books, and if there’s one thing that is guaranteed to spoil a story for me, it’s inconsistent or poor characterisation.
I’ve been thinking since book 1, that I’d like to read Breckonridge’s story. After all, he’s often described as being handsome and intelligent – but he’s at least forty (shock, horror!) which perhaps disqualifies his being cast as a romantic lead. He also appears to have a decent amount of common sense and maturity, so perhaps that has something to do with it. In any case, he gets his HEA with Lady Hervey – and I suspect they’ll be just as happy, if not more so, than their less mature and more wayward relatives.
With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.