September 2008, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
HQN, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373773080 Part of a series
The Wedding Challenge is the third book in Candace Camp's Matchmaker series, featuring young widow, Lady Francesca Haughston. Though reading the prior two installments wasnít necessary to enjoying this one, I will probably pick them up next time I get the chance Ė and Iím very much looking forward to the fourth.
Lady Calandra - Callie to her friends - younger sister of the Duke of Rochford, is 23 but still unmarried - largely because her beloved older brother sets all fortune and status hunters packing and leaves everybody else too afraid to actively court her. She doesnít mind, though, until her unmarried state becomes a topic of conversation at a masquerade.
That night, she meets the reclusive Earl of Bromwell, a handsome, charming man with whom she shares an instant attraction. However, her brother also has an instant reaction to him: Hatred. One of his last proclamations before he leaves town for the rest of winter is that she must never see him again. Bromwell soon comes to call on her at the home of her good friend, Francesca, with whom she is staying, and begins courting her persistently. However, he has his own, less than honorable, reasons for calling on her. When his intentions break off suddenly, Callie wants to know why, discovering only then the history between her brother and Bromwell.
I really enjoyed this story. Callie and Bromwell have great chemistry, both physical and emotional. Despite his original nefarious intentions, it is clear that he is a good man with strong loyalties. Heroes who pursue their heroines for dishonorable reasons arenít particularly original, but it is rare that I donít question their character in the end as I didn't here. I also liked Callie, although some of her notions were a bit anachronistic.
For all of its strong points, the book's ending is rushed. We spend relatively little time in Bromwellís head and that is where we need to be for the conclusion Ė or at least part of it. There is a conversation I wanted to see that was merely recounted later that would have shed some light on the motivations of Bromwellís sister, who plays a big role in both past and present conflicts between the two families. Callie also was overtaken by an unwarranted bout of childishness that surprised and confused me.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the book. It isnít perfect and it is fairly predictable; I knew what had happened (or what would happen) the minute a clue showed up, and some of the language edged a bit too close to purple for my liking. All the same, though, it was just a good read, one that I had a hard time putting down.
There is strong foreshadowing of a romance between Rochford and Francesca and truths are revealed in this book that have been hidden for 15 years. This couple will be featured in the next book in the series and if it and the previous two books are as enjoyable as this one, Iím very excited to read them.
-- Jane Granville
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