Everyone has their problems. Take Marjorie Penwhistle, at twenty three she’s destined to be a spinster. She’s beautiful enough to attract suitors, but she has some baggage. First there’s her meddlesome mother, Lady Dorothea Summerfield, but even with her presence Marjorie has received several marriage proposals over the years, some even from men with titles. Of course they were all refused, a mere Earl was not good enough to please her mom. Yet, Marjorie might have said yes to at least one, if not for her brother, George Penwhistle, Earl of Summerville. Any sign of mockery of her beloved sibling tended to be a deal breaker. You see, George is a little different from most people and he needs her protection. Brilliant as he may be with his uncanny ability to remember minute details, so suited for his job as a solicitor, this doesn’t negate the fact that his oddities lead to an awkwardness in social situations. He just doesn’t get it. And his lack of social graces gets him into trouble. Like the time he inadvertently lost twenty five thousand pounds to Charles Norris, the second son to a Viscount. It’s not that her family doesn’t have the funds to pay the large debt. It’s more that her mother already maintains a disdain for her autistic son, and the consequences of her wrath would not be in anyone’s favor, except perhaps her cousin Jeffrey who would like to take over the title of Earl. In the meantime, Marjorie has to deal with Charles who is holding the note. All will be forgiven if only she’ll help him with his little problem – finding a wife, and if along the way she can find a husband, then she won’t have to marry any of the abhorrent men her mother prefers. Of course, this solution sets the stage for the developing attraction between the two main characters who must overcome numerous obstacles before they finally give in to the inevitable love they share.
The Spinster Bride by Jane Goodger is a different type of story with some interesting elements: such as an autistic brother, a wounded hero (from the Ashanti War in Ghana) with a bad leg which interferes with his walking and dancing abilities, a tall servant from India dressed in his native clothing, a conniving cousin, and a mother who behaves more like a General in the army than a loving matriarch. I especially liked the flashback sequences describing Lady Dorothea’s own dating past which explains her current behaviors including why she lives vicariously through Margaret’s numerous London seasons. This Victorian Romance, set in 1874, is the last of the four books in the Lords and Ladies series.
Unfortunately, the story tended to drag, although it did pick up after George’s disappearance which added some intrigue into the plot. The characters were inconsistent and their behaviors didn’t always match their words. Charles was not very likable at times, even though he was kind to George. He was clueless on too many occasions and didn’t always treat Marjorie with the respect shek deserved. Marjorie tended to be self centered, despite her protectiveness towards both her brother and mother. These were characters you had to strive to admire. There was also too much repetition as the protagonists struggled with their feelings.
After reading Book One of this series, as well as the synopsis for Books Two and Three, I find that Jane Goodger likes to explore characters with unusual problems, such as elective mutes, abused childhoods, evil parents, imprisonments, illegitimacy, incest, autism, tragic deaths (of siblings and/or parents), marriages to escape poverty, rejection, and general unhappiness. There is so much potential which isn’t being realized due to inconsistent characterizations, repetitive dialogue, and plot deficiencies. I hope that future endeavors take these factors into account so as to create more enjoyable romances for her fan base. I really want to love these books. Three stars for Lady Dorothea Summerfield, the vignettes of her romantic tragedy were the best part of this novel.
I would like to thank Lyrical Press and Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.