REVIEW: The Wayward Bride (Besotted Scotts #1) by Anna Bradley
In only six weeks, Isla Ramsey is due to marry Henry Northrup, the sixth Earl of Sydney. But she remains haunted by memories of the dashing Hugh Courtney, the Marquess Pierce. The handsome aristocrat had hinted at forever and then tossed her aside, leaving Isla with few viable options. Now, as she awaits her new fiancé’s arrival from London, she rides her horse past Hugh’s estate at Hazelwood every day, pining for a man who was never truly hers.
Hugh Courtney may have left Isla’s life, but he can’t erase her from his thoughts. When he rescues her from a sudden snowstorm, they are forced to take shelter together at his private estate. In such close quarters there is no escaping each other. Yet no man wants a reckless wife—or a woman promised to another. As fate draws Isla further into his world, Hugh vows to keep her out of his bedchamber. However, some vows are meant to be broken.
Dear Anna Bradley,
Let me state it upfront, I am not a big reader of m/f romance. I do read it occasionally but mostly from the couple of favorite writers and where romance is concerned I mostly read m/m. Heather’s review sold your book to me here on Good reads. I read her review and was intrigued – probably because m/m romance mixed in with m/f romance is always a good thing in my book, but I also was intrigued about Hugh and Ilsa.
This book is billed as the first book in the series. It was clear to me, however, that some events took place before this story started and apparently (I went back to Heather’s review again to find that out) this is the spin-off from “The Somerset Sisters” series. You absolutely can read this book as a stand-alone, you just would be a little confused initially as to what caused Isla and Hugh to be mad at each other as the book begins and for Isla to be engaged to another man.
The story is set in England. The first page gives us a date of March 1818 and Isla wants to ride out in the rain as she does every day. But her new sister-in-law Hyacinth insists that she cannot because she would be endangering herself and she would even complain to her brothers. As an aside, both Hyacinth and Isla’s brothers love Isla, so nobody is being tyrannical to her or anything like that. However Isla decides she would still ride, because she wants to go past Hugh’s windows and she ends up in the forest during a horrible storm right near where Hugh lives. Her brothers are riding to rescue her, but it just so happens that Hugh finds her first and brings her to his estate and that’s where they are going to stay for couple of days while being very mad at each other.
I thought Isla and Hugh definitely had romantic chemistry and I appreciated them as characters, what I did not appreciate about them though is a stupid misunderstanding which caused their break up in the previous book. It sounded (since I have not read the previous book) that this was the only reason why they were not engaged and when the conflict between the couple could be resolved with one conversation (as it eventually was, but way too much time was spent on them being mad at each other.) I usually roll my eyes and, as much as I enjoyed them, I also wanted to smack them hard.
Intertwined with Isla’s developing romance is a romance for her fiancé and best friend Lord Sydney – don’t ask. When Sydney was riding out to meet Isla at her family house to discuss various things such as their unexpected engagement, he got into a terrible accident and a farmer named Lucas saved him and brought Sydney to his farm to recover.
I thought Sydney and Lucas were adorable, genuinely sweet and very well-matched. Sydney is the kindest soul and Lucas with his gruffness on the surface is a wonderful man too. Here have some excerpts about them getting to know each other.
“He was young—much younger than Sydney had imagined him to be from his brusque manner—and he was… Beautiful. He had a strong, square jaw, and thick, dark red hair that fell over his forehead and into those startling gray eyes. Sydney had an overwhelming urge to brush it off his face so he could look into the man’s eyes again.
Perhaps it was his head injury, or perhaps it was simply the man himself, but Sydney couldn’t recall ever feeling a stronger urge to touch someone. He staggered toward the young man, words rushing to his lips. He wanted to introduce himself, like a proper gentleman. Henry Northrup, the sixth Earl of Sydney… The man jerked his gaze to Sydney’s face, and for the first time Sydney saw a flicker of concern in the gray eyes. “You’re confused. You’re muttering nonsense to yourself.” Sydney frowned. Nonsense? He was introducing himself, wasn’t he?”
“The polite thing to do would be to move the chair closer to the bed, into the light, so his guest could see his face, but Lucas remained where he was, studying the small grin that lingered on the earl’s lips. He’d been right about Lord Sydney’s mouth. It did want to curve into a smile. A kind aristocrat. Just last night, he’d sat in this same chair, studying Lord Sydney’s unconscious face, scoffing at the very notion of a kind aristocrat, but now…
Now that face was awake, and Lucas couldn’t deny every line of it, every angle and nuance, bespoke kindness. The hint of a smile in his cheeks, the laugh lines around his eyes—Well, his right eye, anyway. The left side of Lord Sydney’s face was cut and bruised, and that eye swollen shut. Now the wound was no longer bleeding, Lucas had wrapped the bandage loosely to let the air get to it, but he’d have to dress it properly again soon, and it was going to hurt like the devil when he did.”
I thought they had wonderful chemistry, I could read more and more pages about them. So if I were to grade only their *romance* I would certainly give them an A, where I tripped is when book calls itself a historical romance.
Sorry, but while I understand that LGBT folks probably were forced to trust some people with their secrets, in this book way too many people and way too easily accepted that Sydney and Lucas are a couple living together. Yes, I know the only people we are hundred percent aware of their acceptance are Isla and her husband, even that was too much for me. Okay, sure if I stretch it I can buy Isla loving her best friend and accepting that he prefers men, but Hugh would not even say anything , no surprise at all? And while I was not sure because that exchange between Isla and Lakhlan (or was it another brother?) was ambiguous, I thought that he also knew about Sydney’s preferences and would not even blink an eye when Ilsa told them that Sydney found their love.
Oh well, I guess C+/B- overall