Lady Eleanor de la Tour is a willful woman who refuses to be bossed around by any man. Destined to marry the Earl of Glasmere, she has prepared herself to wed Arthur, but on her wedding day she discovers King Edward has demoted her betrothed and replaced him with Richard Courtenay, a former knight. Even though the man she must now wed is handsome and chivalrous, she does everything in her power to resist the inevitable match. She wants to marry for love, not mated out of a sense of duty. Although her spouse is intelligent company and solicitous of her needs (he even agrees to defer the consummation of their union until she is ready), he freely admits he is incapable of love. Richard admires Eleanor and as he is overcome by the growing physical attraction between them, he attempts to seduce her into compliance, but she has other plans. Eleanor decides that if their marriage can be annulled, Richard will be free to find a new wife while she will be finally able to marry her beloved Arthur. To find a new partner for her husband, she devises a competition, A Bride Tournament, where the winner will be the Earl of Glasmere’s new wife – a woman worthy of the honor. As the tournament approaches, Eleanor wonders whether the whole idea is a mistake, yet she can’t bear to be married to a man who cannot love, let alone one who is obsessed by the secret of alchemy which ruined her parents’ marriage. The King has charged Richard with discovering this very secret by ordering him to locate some missing scrolls which might provide the answer to their quest, and the Earl has a feeling that Eleanor just might be the key to solving this mystery.
While this is an interesting premise and the author has a pleasant writing style, the first two thirds of the The Bride Tournament (Book 3 of the War of the Roses Bride series) by Ruth Kaufman is filled with Eleanor’s indecisions and Richard’s yearnings. It isn’t until the last third of the book where the plot gives us some much needed action. Eleanor seems childish – whining and complaining when she doesn’t get her way, while Richard is indecisive and at times cruel, especially when he flaunts his attention towards his prospective brides-to-be and ignores his wife. In between he tries to satisfy his lust towards Eleanor by seducing her. The more she resists, the more he wants her. Even though he listens to her objections, he still makes it clear it is their duty to be together as the King commands. This does not endear him to her at all, yet she falls in love with him anyway. They both seem so shallow. The conversations between the two are repetitive and not very engaging. There was so much potential to this story, especially focusing on life at court, but we only got a small glimpse of the action. The secondary characters, such as Arthur, Eleanor’s father (Lord Edmund) and sister (Alyce), and Richard’s brother (Owen), as well as the two villains, could have been more fully developed. Perhaps this book would have made a better novella. Two and a half stars.
I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.