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REVIEW: Tempting the Bride by Sherry Thomas

Dear Ms. Thomas –

You have the terrible tendency of ruining me for other books. What I mean is, I read a Sherry Thomas book, and then nothing else I read really satisfies me. This was the case for me with Tempting the Bride because it has within its covers several romance tropes that I adore. The first is unrequited love, the second in an amnesia plot. That’s right, an amnesia plot.

Tempting the Bride by Sherry ThomasDavid, Lord Hastings, has been in love with Helena Fitzhugh pretty much since the moment he met her. Not Helena’s stunning beauty of a sister, Venetia, no, it’s Helena for Hastings. Having been fifteen when he met her, he decided that the best way to demonstrate his love for her was by criticizing her intelligence, looks and anything else he could think of. The result is, of course, that Helena loathes him. David is Helena’s older brother’s best friend, so they’ve found themselves forced together often, and each time he finds a way to antagonize her. But inside he quakes with deep and abiding love for her, admiring her independent nature, her beauty and her obvious intelligence. That is, until he discovers that Helena has been secretly visiting Mr. Andrew Martin, a married man.

Helena and Andrew Martin have been in love for years. Despite that fact, Andrew capitulated to the demands of his mother and married another woman, even knowing that his decision would force Helena and him to be apart forever. But Helena does not care about this. She is willing to risk her reputation in order to be with Andrew, even risking sneaking into his room at a house party. Her nighttime antics are discovered by Hastings, and he makes haste in both warning Helena off from such foolishness and in telling her brother about her dalliance with Mr. Martin. Helena’s brother, Fitzhugh, wastes no time in sending Helena, along with his wife and sister on a tour of the Americas. But even her extended absence has not diminished her love for Mr. Martin. She is overjoyed to receive a note upon her return from overseas from Andrew telling her to meet him at a hotel, and to tell no one. Hastings, knowing that Helena will not be deterred in her love for Andrew, discovers the plan and hurries to the hotel to stop Helena from ruining herself. He discovers that Helena and Andrew have been set up by Andrew’s wife and sister-in-law in the hopes of catching him committing adultery. Hastings hatches a plot to have Mr. Martin’s sister-in-law find he and Helena in a romantic embrace, celebrating their elopement. Indeed, she does find them, and word spreads like wildfire that Helena and David are married.

After heading to Helena’s brother’s home to advise her family of the wedding, the couple agrees to leave London to David’s country home, where his illegitimate daughter lives, to allow the gossip to dissipate. But as she’s leaving her brother’s home, Helena is hit by a horse and carriage and receives a blow to the head. When she awakens, she remembers little of her past, and nothing from the time she was fourteen on. She has no memory of David, and is shocked to hear that she’s married to a man she does not remember. David, not being an idiot, seizes upon the opportunity to begin anew with Helena, and woos her with kindness. As she begins to remember her past, David owns up quite quickly to how horrible he was to her, but instead of being outraged, Helena is delighted with how well she stood up to him, and finds herself amused at the stories. When he admits to her that they are not married, but were posing as a married couple in order for her to avoid scandal, she decides that she’ll seduce him (she remembers nothing of Andrew and has no interest in him), so that they can be married in reality. David is reluctant to consummate his relationship with Helena, encouraging her to wait until she remembers more, but she is determined, and this is a culmination of all of David’s hopes and dreams. Soon they have begun a spicy sexual relationship, but what will happen as Helena’s memories return? Will she regret her relationship with David, and wish to return to Mr. Martin?
As I said, this story appealed to me because I love unrequited love stories, and I enjoy a well done amnesia plot, contrived as they might be. I enjoyed Helena and David’s chemistry – they spend the first third of the book despising each other and their ripostes were incredibly entertaining. I liked that we had the opportunity to be inside David’s head so that we understood how painful he found the situation with Helena, and how his actions did not come from a selfish place (despite her interpretation of the situation), but one of concern for Helena. And once her accident occurs, his love for her is evident in every action he makes. The story is well paced, the love scenes are really hot, and as always, your prose is beautiful.

If I had any complaints about the story, it’s that I wished that Helena weren’t quite so brittle. She’s not a particularly likeable character. She’s very nasty to David and she runs quite hot and cold with him. Granted, these changes are justified as her memory returns, and certainly a lifetime of antagonism is not going to disappear immediately, but I wish you’d softened her a bit. She was very good to David’s daughter, Beatrice, which I appreciated, and she’s quite loyal to her family. But it was far into the story before I really felt that she deserved David.

Overall, Tempting the Bride is a truly enjoyable historical romance with funny characters, beautifully written prose and a satisfying ending. It stands alone quite well, although I’d encourage readers to read the other entries in the Fitzhugh Trilogy, as they are all entertaining reads. Final grade: B+

Kind regards,

Kati

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Kati Brown

I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.

16 Comments

  1. Mandi
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 12:18:43

    The first half of this book I loved. Hastings broke my heart…when he would wait for Helena’s light to go out under her door…so sweet.

    I was just not a fan of the amnesia though. I wanted them to find love through a different means.

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  2. Kati
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 12:33:41

    @Mandi: I think you’re probably not the only one, Mandi. I’m an old skool reader, so I have an unabashed love for secret babies and amnesia (put your hands together, my friend).

    No really, I think in the hands of a lesser author, this storyline might not have worked for me, but Sherry Thomas really does produce such delicate and beautiful prose that I forgive her things I might not let pass with another author.

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  3. Krista
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 12:39:55

    I’ve been seeing a lot of mixed reviews about this book. I think the amnesia thing is a total cliche, but I think Sherry can handle it.

    Kati,

    I love secret babies too! Even though I really couldn’t even recommend a good one :)

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  4. Lily
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 13:24:06

    Ah, Sherry Thomas. I almost can’t bring myself to read her. Her books are so heart wrenching to me, they are almost unpleasant reads despite my love of angst, HEAs, and her writing. I hurt for her characters. I just finished Ravishing the Heiress last night and I want to know what happens with Hastings and Helena, but I think I need some recovery time first. Her books despite how well written they are, are never re-reads for me. My heart can’t take it!

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  5. Rosie
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 14:19:45

    I absolutely adored this book. It pushed all the right buttons for me. I’m such a sucker for a hero who’s hopelessly in love with the heroine who’s oblivious. And the amnesia trope worked for me here because Hastings so needed a clean slate after messing up his chances with the girl of his dreams for years. What can I say? I just think Thomas pulled it off beautifully — but I can see others not agreeing. This was a winner for me — favorite historical of 2012 hands down. Happy sigh.

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  6. Wendy
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 15:43:30

    It is testament to Sherry Thomas’ writing skills (and my anticipation for David and Helena’s story) that I even dove into an amnesia story. I actually think that part was handled well. I liked that Helena could remember some things. I liked that David didn’t hold out on her when it came time to tell her about Andrew and the real reason they were “married.” I loved Helena’s reaction to herself as she heard about her affair with Andrew.
    That said, I could never decide if David tipped over the edge from sweet-obsessed into weird-obsessed. Some of the things he did to please Helena, even before he knew he’d ever have a chance, sort of made me pause. David was well-drawn, and the scenes with his daughter and when Helena was convalescing were lovely. He was a good balance to Helena’s “brittle” tendencies, but I think I could have done without some of the home modifications and collections, etc. Sure, they work well in the context of an amnesia story to make our memory-blindered heroine swoon, but they still rubbed me wrong. There were enough ways to prove to the reader that David was wonderful without the over-the-top touches. (And I realize how funny it is that I’m complaining about over-the-top in a story with an amnesia plot.)
    In spite of this reservation, I absolutely agree with the grade in this review and still really enjoyed this book. (I, apparently, have just been dying to talk about it and have no other outlet. Thanks, Dear Author.)

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  7. Rosie
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 16:51:49

    I forgot to mention that I agree with your wish that Helena hadn’t been quite so brittle. She could definitely be considered a difficult heroine for those who dislike that sort of character.
    But I did love how Helena’s amnesiac self couldn’t see the appeal of Andrew at all and was baffled by the reported attraction.
    And I loved David’s determination to do things right when he got his 2nd chance. I just loved so much about this book!

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  8. Susan
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 20:26:29

    Thanks for this review. My two favorite romances are Sherry Thomas books, so I know what you mean when you say she’s ruinedd you for other authors. I can’t wait for her books to come out, but then I’m scared to read them because a) they devastate me and b) then they’re over. I’ve been saving Tempting the Bride for just the right moment. (Along with Ann Aguirre’s Endgame.)

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  9. Lorenda Christensen
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 23:14:24

    I love all Sherry Thomas books. Even the amnesia ones. :)

    I felt like the ending was slightly rushed – we really only got the one scene with her former lover before Helena made her decision – and I would have liked to see her work this out for a longer period of time. I likely felt this way because of how brittle Helena was, that I felt as if she needed to do a little more redeeming before her HEA.

    But, as everyone else has said, Sherry Thomas has never let me down, and she retains a top spot on my auto-buy list.

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  10. SonomaLass
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 01:34:05

    I loved this book. I thought the amnesia was handled well, and I enjoyed feeling more sympathy for the hero than the heroine for some of the book. (Of course, I have a known thing for the “unlikeable” heroine.) This one hit a lot of my buttons, too — creative hero, woman in a traditionally men’s profession, loving family to support the couple rather than rip them apart, and a single parent plot with a complex parent-child dynamic. I adored Bea.

    I also enjoyed following this book up with The Bride of Larkspear, the erotic novel Hastings writes for Helena.

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  11. Patricia Eimer
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 07:35:22

    Secret babies and amnesia? Oh it’s Christmas in book form

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  12. Kati
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 07:54:57

    @Patricia Eimer: I should clarify, there is no secret baby in this book. But I do love a good secret baby plot. :)

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  13. Booo
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 09:24:09

    I am currently on my 4th reading of this book. I tried to read something else, but they’re all amazingly boring.

    Might as well reread something you know is GREAT!

    I can’t believe I’m walking around with my secret smirk as Hastings’s lines play in my head over and over and over and over again.

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  14. Little Red
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 11:49:06

    Great review! It totally makes me want to rush home and download it onto my Nook.

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  15. RabidReader
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 17:54:20

    I’m with Lily. The two Sherry Thomas books (Not Quite a Husband and Private Arrangements) I read were so painful I can’t bring myself to read any more. Which is a shame, because I love her mad writing skillz and I like some angst… but not the torture her people put themselves through.

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  16. Las
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 22:14:33

    I’m a huge sucker for amnesia stories, but I so disliked the first two books of this series that I had planned to skip this one. And unrequited love stories almost always turn to hate-reads for me.

    But amnesia! I need to think about this one.

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