The Winter Bride
By Anne Gracie
By Anne Gracie
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Freddy Monkton-Coombes reluctantly agrees to his friend Max’s request that Freddy keep an eye on Max’s aunt Lady Beatrice Davenham and her charges Jane, Damaris, and Daisy Chance while Max and his bride, Abby Chance, are on their wedding trip. Despite Max’s assurances that the task will not be onerous, Freddy is not surprised that his new responsibilities take up more and more of his time. First, there are the literary afternoons where the subject of the readings always seems to be some unfortunate fellow being pushed or charmed into marriage, a state Freddy is dedicated to avoiding. Then there is Damaris Chance’s insistence on leaving Lady Bea’s home at the crack of dawn and journeying to an unsafe part of town to paint china. Of course, Freddy has to accompany her to assure himself of her safety, a practice that makes him and his valet most unhappy.
Damaris knows Mr. Monkton-Coombes disapproves of her work, but she cannot let his disapproval weigh with her. Her affection for Lady Bea is strong enough to persuade her to go along with the lady’s plan to give her unmarried “nieces” a season in which to enjoy pretty clothes, dancing, and suitors, but Damaris knows that the goal of the season is to find a husband
--and Damaris has no need of a husband since she is unalterably opposed to marriage for herself. Instead, she dreams of earning enough money to buy a cottage in the country where she will be safe and independent.
When Freddy learns that his mother has planned a house party to coincide with his annual visit to his parents’ home and invited a host of eligible young women, many of whom are relentless and audacious in their pursuit of Freddy, he decides he needs a fake fiancée. Since Damaris has made her aversion to marriage clear to him, she is the perfect candidate. Damaris thinks Freddy’s idea is mad, but when he offers her an irresistible deal, she agrees to play the role and to accompany Freddy on his visit.
Neither Freddy nor Damaris is what he/she seems to be. Both have come through darkness—scarred but refusing to surrender to the pain. As they come to know one another better, a genuine liking and friendship develops. By the time they realize that friendship has ripened into love, each considers marriage to the other to be a consummation devoutly to be wished. But there are still obstacles to overcome before they can begin their HEA.
While Freddy’s class and gender made him less vulnerable physically when those who should have offered him compassion, understanding, and love failed to do so, he was no less vulnerable emotionally. Like Damaris, he keeps his past to himself, and even those who know him best and realize some of what he has accomplished accept him essentially as the light-hearted rake he appears to be. I confess that I was already a little in love with Freddy because he reminded me a bit of Georgette Heyer’s Freddy Standen, a hero I adore, but Gracie’s Freddy is a more complex character and the very best kind of beta hero, a man who combines strength and honor with kindness and a nurturing nature.
In addition to an engaging hero and heroine, Gracie gives her readers a cast of appealing secondary characters. Lady Bea is as endearing and benevolently manipulative as she was in the first book. Max and Abby have roles to play in this story, and she shows enough of Jane and Daisy to leave readers eager for The Spring Bride and The Summer Bride.
Anne Gracie is among a very select group of authors whose books never fail to move me to tears, to laughter, and to blissful sighs of readerly satisfaction. The Winter Bride joins a long list of Gracie keepers on my bookshelves. I highly recommend it.
Anne Gracie has been on my auto-buy list since I read Gallant Waif in 2001—and immediately ordered her first book Tallie’s Knight, both of which I still reread. Do you have an auto-buy list? Have you added authors based on the first book you read by them?