Friday, January 30, 2015

The Winter Bride - Anne Gracie (Berkley - Apr 2014)

Series: Chance Sisters (Book 2)

Damaris Chance’s unhappy past has turned her off the idea of marriage forever. But her guardian, Lady Beatrice Davenham, convinces her to make her coming out anyway -- and have a season of carefree, uncomplicated fun.

When Damaris finds herself trapped in a compromising situation with the handsome rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes, she has no choice but to agree to wed him -- as long as it’s in name only. Her new husband seems to accept her terms, but Freddy has a plan of his own: to seduce his reluctant winter bride.

Will Damaris’s secrets destroy her chance at true happiness? Or can Freddy help her cast off the shackles of the past, and yield to delicious temptation?

I loved this book just as much as I did the first book The Autumn Bride. I was a little worried about Freddy being the hero in this one, as he seemed to be more comic relief than anything else in the first book. But it turned out that there was a lot more to Freddy than was first apparent. 

Freddy is a determined bachelor. He has been enjoying the life of a rake, able to do as he wants and answering to no one. His mother is determined to see him married, and as a result he has a deep dislike, almost fear, of what he calls muffins - young ladies who are determined to trap him in marriage. When his best friend Max (The Autumn Bride) leaves on his honeymoon, he asks Freddy to look after his aunt and the other three girls while he's away. Freddy is horrified, but reluctantly agrees. Daisy and Jane are no problem, but Damaris is something else entirely.

Damaris is just as determined as Freddy never to marry. She grew up in China as the daughter of a missionary. It had not been a good life, as her father was a self-righteous prig who only got worse after her mother died when Damaris was twelve. When her father was murdered, Damaris made her own way to England, enduring hardships that caused decision not to marry. She has a fear of being left penniless again, and has found a job painting china in order to earn some money for herself. Freddy is appalled when he finds her walking in a poor part of town and because of his promise to Max, insists on escorting her when she refuses to quit her job.

When his mother's efforts to marry him off become unbearable, Freddy comes up with the idea of a fake engagement. As he can't ask just anybody, he goes to Damaris with his proposition, knowing that she won't hold him to it. She is reluctant at first, but he manages to convince her with the promise of a cottage of her own when they are done. Though he starts out thinking mainly of himself, spending time with Damaris soon has him thinking more about her than he thought he would. He begins to think that marriage to her wouldn't be a bad thing at all, though admitting his feelings to himself is something he resists.

Freddy and Damaris are perfect for each other. Though he gives the impression of being a carefree fribble, his charm and humor hide an excellent mind and a kind heart. It also hides a soul riddled with pain over his brother's death when they were children, and the hurtful way his parents still treat him because of it. When Freddy takes Damaris to his home, she begins to see the real Freddy. Damaris is hiding her own pain and secrets, ones that are keeping her from her dream of a man that would love her and take care of her. As she gets to know him, she falls in love, but believes that he would turn from her if he knew the truth about her.

The trip to Freddy's home brought out so much emotion in both of them. Damaris was appalled at the way his parents treated Freddy, especially once she knew what had happened. I loved seeing her stand up to them and try to make them see how terribly they have been treating them. The effect is has on Freddy just makes him care more for her. He gets his chance to show his feelings when they get stranded in a flood. Damaris can't imagine going forward with their engagement without telling him the truth about her. Freddy's reaction is just what she needs, and she starts to believe that there is a chance that her dreams could come true after all. I loved his patience and his determination to win his prize.

There was a lot of humor in this story, from Freddy's efforts to avoid "muffins" and his encounter with Damaris's coworkers, to Lady Bea's tendency to do exactly what she wants to get her way. I loved Freddy's efforts to get his business partner Flynn properly dressed for his plans to marry a society woman, and their boxing match later that day. The scene toward the end when Abby and Damaris go chasing after Max and Freddy was both fun and emotional.

There were also moments that had me reaching for the tissues, such as Damaris's telling of what happened on the voyage to England, and the awesome way that Freddy showed her that it was her strength that he found so much more important. Damaris's fears when Freddy went tearing off to London were intense, but his reasons were so romantic. The final chapter with the reappearance of Freddy's parents was wonderful.

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