Haughty Lady Helen Radney is one of Regency England’s most beautiful women and the daughter of a duke, but her sharp tongue has frightened away most of her suitors. When her father gambles away his fortune, the duke’s only chance for recouping his losses lies in marrying off Lady Helen to any man wealthy enough to take a bride with nothing to recommend her but a lovely face and an eight-hundred-year-old pedigree.
Enter Mr. Ethan Brundy, once an illegitimate workhouse orphan, now owner of a Lancashire textile mill and one of England’s richest men. When he glimpses Lady Helen at Covent Garden Theatre, he is instantly smitten and vows to marry her.
But this commonest of commoners will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to win the heart of his aristocratic bride…
This thoroughly charming Regency Romance, originally published in 1999 and now re-issued in digital formats, features a type of hero rarely found in historical romance. Mr Ethan Brundy isn’t titled, he isn’t a gentleman or a snappy dresser and while not unattractive, is no well-muscled Adonis. The one thing he does have in common with many an aristocratic hero, however, is that he’s incredibly wealthy.
The owner of a cotton mill and various other businesses in the north of England, Ethan is on a rare visit to London in the company of a couple of friends, when he espies the most beautiful woman he has ever seen and immediately determines to marry her.
His friends try to warn him off. Lady Helen Radney, daughter of the Duke of Reddington might be beautiful, but she is widely known for her shrewish disposition and her ability to wound an unwanted suitor at twenty paces with her sharp tongue.
But Ethan is well and truly smitten, and won’t be deterred. He discovers that the duke’s finances are in dire straits, and offers to pay him a large sum of money in exchange for Helen’s hand in marriage. Unsurprisingly, the lady herself is appalled – by Ethan’s working-class accent, his ill-fitting clothes and most of all, his lowly origins – and makes it abundantly clear that while she has no alternative but to obey her father’s instruction and marry him, she dislikes him intensely and has no intention of being an affectionate spouse.
The story follows a predictable course, it’s true, but what makes The Weaver Takes a Wife so enjoyable is the characterisation, the way the author develops the central relationship and most of all, Ethan himself, who is a truly captivating hero.
Ethan is a self-made man, a workhouse boy who, having shown an aptitude for the work to which he was assigned, was subsequently adopted by his employer who had no son of his own. Ethan learned the business, took the man’s last name – having none of his own – and eventually inherited his ‘father’s’ mills and other businesses. He refuses to be cowed by the haughty disdain of the members of the ton and one of the most attractive things about him is that he is a man who knows who he is and is comfortable in his own skin.
Helen is proud and cold, and has no intention of being anything else toward her husband, but can’t help being surprised by his kindness and generosity. Still, the idea of her coming to feel anything for her husband looks unlikely at best. When, on their wedding day, her bridegroom tells her that it would please him were she to call him Ethan, she replies –
”I wonder, Mr Brundy what makes you think pleasing you must be an object with me?”
– and takes every opportunity she can to slight him. Her progress from scornful bride to loving wife is accomplished beautifully as she comes to see what the reader has seen from the outset – that her husband is a true diamond in the rough – and that she (like the reader) wouldn’t want him any other way.
The Weaver Takes a Wife is a delight from start to finish; a real feel-good, pick-me-up read and one I’m sure I’ll be revisiting in future.