This review is for Bride by Mistake by Anne Gracie, a book I've read in 2012 :) Can't you believe it, we're almost at the end of January already?!? So I'm trying my best not to fall too much behind ^_^; Enjoy! :)
Bride by Mistake by Anne Gracie
published by Berkley in January 2012
Eight years ago, Lieutenant Luke Ripton made a hasty wartime marriage to protect a young girl from a forced union. Now, unable to obtain an annulment, Luke has no choice but to collect Isabella, the fiercely independent wife he never wanted.Genre: Historical romance
And while they remain bound to their vows, they never expected that the passionate fury they share could become passion of a different kind...
Series: The Devil Riders, Book #5
The Story: They were five young men when they left for war and became Wellington's devil riders. Unfortunately, only four came back and all of them changed, especially Luke Ripton. Haunted, Luke has sworn to never step in Spain ever again... but now, he has no choice to.
Eight years ago, at the age of 19, Luke married Isabella Mercedes Sanchez y Vaillant, the only daughter of the Conde de Castillejo, who was then 13. At the time, it was a marriage in name only as Luke's intention was simply to protect the young girl's interests from her unscrupulous cousin in time of war. After escorting Isabella to her aunt, a nun in a convent, Luke applied for an annulment and thought the story over and done. However, he has just learned that the annulment has been refused. With no other option, Luke intends to honor the marriage and hopes that with time, they will come to love each other. But first, he needs to go to Spain and retrieve his bride.
Bella has waited eight years for her prince charming, stuck in a convent. Eight years! When Luke finally shows up, she has questions for him... and is heart-broken to learn that he applied for an annulment. Then, he expects her to follow him back to England! Well her husband is in for a surprise because Bella has things to see to before she can become his dutiful wife...
My Opinion: There are some books you read the blurbs and you just know they will be winners for you. Such was the case with The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie. I read that book a couple of years ago and really, really enjoyed it :) With Bride by Mistake, I have to admit, I had a few doubts. There is something about the way that the blurb is formulated that niggled me a little and I just wasn't sure. Add in the long wait and expectations and really, I was a bit anxious to start this book. Well I'm glad that the wait was worth it :)
What makes this book stands out for me is the fact that it was so unexpected. Ms Gracie took the marriage of convenience plot and turned it into something really refreshing. It all starts with the circumstances of the wedding which were rather unusual. All Luke wanted was to protect this young girl from a bad fate in a country thrown into turmoil. You see right away that Luke has a good heart and what a gentleman he is. Also, you really can't blame him for leaving Bella in the convent for 8 years since from the start, he thought there'd be an annulment. What's unfortunate is the misunderstanding between the two, that neither Luke or Bella's aunt thought to let her know about it, resulting in Bella pining for him. It makes sense on both parts, especially that Bella would fall in love with the man who saved her. I liked that Ms Gracie didn't draw out the misunderstanding. Another thing that I really liked was the fact that as soon as Luke learned about the annulment being refused, he intended to honor the marriage. He didn't drag his feet before going to Spain to pick up Bella, didn't resent Bella for it or sulk. Was he happy? Not really, but it didn't change the fact that Isabella was his lawful wife and that he hoped they would come to like each other and reach a level of contentment. So I really liked his attitude and the fact there was no thoughts of taking a mistress :P
As you can see, Luke was a good character and so was Bella :) In the blurb, Bella is described as independent... but it's not so much independence because Bella was not averse to marriage or a husband. She never gave the feeling that marriage would chafe or that it was a bad thing which is surprising considering her parents' marriage. She wasn't the meek and obedient wife that Luke expected, that's for sure LOL. Instead, she was strong, determined and smart. She was raised to take over her father's duties with the estate and it showed. Really, if I had to describe Bella, I'd say she was spunky :) And she was exactly the type of woman Luke needed in his life :)
These two good characters made for a nice romance :) I liked that they took their time to develop a relationship. I think it helped they were already married and both of them wanted this marriage to work. They each made compromises and put efforts into it. While Bella had a somewhat idealized vision of Luke in her mind, she did know him... because while it was only one meeting, she met the real Luke. It was nice to see how confident she was in his character. And the two definitively had chemistry :)
There were two other elements that worked for me in this book. The first was the setting: Spain. I thought it was really refreshing. Authors usually go for really exotic locations such as India, Egypt or Greece, but if they have to set the story in another country than England, then I actually prefer European countries :) It also wasn't overly done and I really liked it :) It was different, but not too much :) The other element is that we finally get the story about Michael! When I read The Accidental Wedding, I didn't really know what was the thread connecting the books in this series. Also, The Accidental Wedding was a bit of a spin-off of the series as Nash wasn't a Devil Rider. It's only when I went back to read the first books in the series that I learned about the 5 friends going to war and being nicknamed as the Devil Riders. Even then, Ms Gracie didn't expand on it at all as the men were already back from the war. So ever since, I've been really curious as to what happened and wanted to know more about their friend Michael. Therefore, I'm really happy that Ms Gracie finally told us and I thought it was quite interesting and unexpected :)
The only weakness from Bride by Mistake was from the storyline in my opinion. I liked Bella's background story as it was interesting and I think it added another dimension to Bella. It made her less perfect and more real. I also liked how it was resolved, the fact that it didn't go as I thought it would :) However, I don't know, something was missing from the whole storyline. It felt like this should had been the climax of the book, the big reveal and it was just a bit flat. The other subplot with La Cuchilla... While it did tie up nicely with the war and Michael, it was a bit too coincidental in my opinion and ultimately, a bit superfluous as well. Sure, it brought closure to Luke, but it didn't flow well with the rest of the book. It was almost like an afterthought ^_^; It's unfortunate because both subplot actually had potential... I think Ms Gracie would have been better off choosing one subplot and really expand it, give it a bit of omphf.
Lastly, just a comment about the series as a whole. Bride by Mistake may be the fifth book in the series, but it stands alone very well. Each book focuses on the H/H and their romance and as a result, there is a minimum of continuity... which is not a bad thing. Of course, characters are mentioned, but it never really dwells on fact that we should know. So do not hesitate to pick up Bride by Mistake :)
My Grade: B+. Bride by Mistake was a good read :) And a great way to start the year!! Next release will be Marcus' book!! Can't wait! :)