All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Winter Bride – Anne Gracie

on March 31, 2014

Winter BrideThe Winter Bride (Chance Sisters #2)
Anne Gracie
Penguin Books AUS
2014, 324p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Damaris Chance has an unhappy past that has led her to swear off ever wanting to be married. She sees no gain for a woman in marriage – the man holds all the power and few matches are made for the right reasons where things turn out happily for all involved, such as her sister Abby’s marriage to Max, Lord Davenham. Damaris is certain that sort of happiness doesn’t await her in her future and she prefers to plan to gain her independence so that she need never be beholden to a man.

Her guardian Lady Beatrice Davenham knows and understands this. However she still wants Damaris to have the chance to have a Season, purely just for fun. To enjoy dressing up, going to balls and events and having the innocent and harmless attention of eligible young men. She doesn’t have to commit to any of them, or feel the need to secure an offer. She just wants Damaris to enjoy herself, probably because it seems unlikely that Damaris has ever had much enjoyment in her young life.

With Max and Abby away on their honeymoon, Max has left his closest friend, Freddy Monkton-Coombes in charge, asking him to keep an eye on Lady Beatrice and the remaining sisters, Damaris, Daisy and Jane. Aware that his own mother is pressuring him to marry and provide the entailed estate with the obligatory heir and spare, Freddy spends most of his time avoiding ‘muffins’ – young and eligible women who definitely do want to marry and secure an offer. Preferably his. In Damaris, who is as reluctant to wed as he, Freddy sees opportunity. And all he has to do is sweeten the deal so that Damaris sees it too.

The Winter Bride is the second in the Chance Sisters series, about four girls who have come together to survive against the odds thrown at them. Damaris spent some time in China but it’s something that she never really talks about – especially how she got from China back to England. After reading The Autumn Bride, which was Abby’s story, Damaris was definitely the sister I was most interested in. Her story was so interesting and I was thrilled when I realised hers would be the second story and I wouldn’t have to wait that long to find out more about her.

Damaris appreciates her sisters and the fact that Lady Beatrice has taken them in and that there’ll always be a home for her. However she has made up her mind that she doesn’t want to get married and her goal is independence. She’s willing to do things in order to make this happen, to work hard, something eligible ladies do not do. But since Damaris doesn’t want to attract men, she’s not worried about people will think about her – although she doesn’t want to negatively impact on her sisters either. She finds herself being chaperoned by Freddy Monkton-Coombes, who feels obligated to take care of her and make sure nothing happens in Max’s absence. Freddy feels that he has the solution for both of them and it is perfect.

I was so-so on Freddy in The Autumn Bride but his character is explored so well in this book that I was an unabashed fan by the end. His playboy, man-about-town-running-away-from-the-muffins persona hides a painful childhood and past. He has as little interest in marrying as Damaris does and the two of them hammer out a deal that seems them feigning an engagement. However, the more time they spend together, the more they get to know each other – and that means the real Freddy, not just the man he projects in town. Damaris learns everything of his childhood and she is driven to protect and defend him when it seems he cannot or will not do it himself. In return, Freddy accepts everything he learns about Damaris, even her terrible secret that she is so ashamed of, that makes her think she isn’t worthy for him to really marry. She thinks that Freddy, who tells her he wants to make their faux betrothal real, will run a mile when he learns what she did.

This is such a great story of acceptance of people for who and what they are and have been through. Freddy is so much more than just meets the eye – he’s really rather progressive really and his acceptance and defence of Damaris and what she was forced to do is amazing. It’s the kind of thing you cheer on when you read. Given this is a historical where certain things are expected of women, especially women men want to marry and there’s a high double standard relating to behaviour, it’s refreshing to see a character so incredibly accepting and concerned with the right things in the tale. Freddy has so many hidden depths – he’s still fun and dashing and still fleeing from muffins, but he’s also a responsible adult who has built a fortune basically on his own, and who deals with the ostracism and blame that his parents heap upon him. The two of them together are supportive and they make each other stronger – Freddy believes in Damaris’s goodness and that in her past, she took the only option available to her. Damaris believes in Freddy’s strength and the right he has to assume his family position and that he’s fully capable of doing so. I wasn’t too sure before I read this if they would make a strong couple but Gracie has made them better with each other in remarkable ways.

Bring on The Spring Bride!

8/10

Book #72 of 2014

AWWW2014

The Winter Bride is the 27th book read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

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