The Bridegroom’s Bargain
by Sylvia Andrew
(Harl. Hist., $5.50, G) ISBN 0-373-29414-X
The Bridegroom’s Bargain holds a big misunderstanding that taints the whole story followed by some actions that seem somewhat psychotic, which is then followed by a search for the truth. With good characters, this might be acceptable. But with a relatively bland hero and a heroine whose thought process is definitely illogical, this book is not really worth your time.

Lord Richard Deverell and Alexandra (Lexi) Rawdon have been friends their whole lives, along with Lexi’s brother Johnny. They grew up together and as they grew, Lexi and Richard grew to love each other, although it was unspoken. Johnny and Richard went to fight Napoleon and Lexi had a successful Season. In her heart, she was waiting for Richard. In his mind, he made it through the horror of war by thinking of Lexi. Then the unthinkable happened…Johnny was shot, some saying by his own hand.

When Lexi’s father heard the news, he went on a rampage of drinking and gambling, only to lose part of his estate, actually a rather large part, to Richard. Shortly before, Lexis’ father had sent for an unknown cousin, Mark, who would inherit now that Johnny was gone. Lexi liked Mark and was sorry that she had only found out about him this way. Richard and her father, always close, seemed to grow closer. When her father died suddenly, Richard convinced Lexi to marry him.

The tale opens on their wedding day, where Richard presents her with the deed to the land her father has lost, a gift intended to show how much he cares about her. Once received, Lexi gives the deed to Mark and pulls a gun on Richard, accusing him of possibly killing her brother and definitely cheating her father. Her “proof” is a servants’ conversation overheard by Mark. Richard makes a deal with Lexi – he will convince her of his innocence in six months or shoot himself.

This is not the best way to start a marriage. But after several days of anxiety, Richard and Lexi reach a sense of compromise and agree to act as man and wife in public, while Richard sets out to prove his case. Within the first few weeks, he is able to show that he had in actuality been helping her father deal with a blackmailer. Losing the land was meant to protect it from the blackmailer, but her father died before the man’s identity could be revealed. Lexi believes Richard. But she has a page from her father’s diary that implies that Richard killed Johnny and made it look like a suicide. Richard now has to prove to Lexi that this was not true. He has to find the truth, because it was apparent to him that Johnny had been a traitor, selling secrets to the French, and just before he was discovered, he killed himself. This was also the blackmailer’s weapon.

The rest of the tale involves trying to find the truth. They travel to London. Lexi and Richard become intimate but don’t really trust each other. In fact, Lexi seems to trust Mark more than Richard, at times.

The suspense was rather mild, with this reader having guessed the culprit long before the hero. The hero, Richard, is a rather tepid hero – being led on a string by Lexi and he didn’t seem to mind. He inferred how strong he was with the army but he never really asserted himself to make the point that he was full of depth as a man during the story.

Lexi, on the other hand, seems to be the best developed character. Unfortunately, she is not very likable. She wallows in self-pity at times, hating Richard one minute and then loving him the next. She goes from acting like a crazy woman with a gun to a wilting lily who requires days to recover (the first week of their marriage has her recuperating in her bedroom nearly full-time from the scene at the church with the gun). She resents Richard’s treatment of her, but then never does anything to recommend that she could be sensible on her own. She trusts men who are almost strangers to her, Mark in particular, but distrusts Richard, this man whom she has known her entire life. All based on gossip overheard by Mark.

I often had a choice of reading this book or flipping TV channels, looking for something to catch my eye. Choosing TV is never a good sign when I am in the middle of a book. For this reader, The Bridegroom’s Bargain was no bargain.

--Shirley Lyons

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