Don’t you just love when you pick up a book and from the very first chapter you’re so captivated that you can’t put it down? That was my experience with The Bridal Season and I think the reason is largely because of the heroine, Letty Potts.
When the story opens, Letty and her little dog Fagin are in a London railway station desperate to escape the city and the clutches of Nick Sparkle. Letty is a music hall performer who had joined with Nick on some harmless confidence games to swindle a few pounds from wealthy gentlemen. But now Nick’s newest set-up involves stealing money from middle-class widows. It is one thing to nick money from a nobleman who’d never miss it, but not from widows and children.
Unfortunately, Nick was not happy with Letty’s refusal to participate. So in order to persuade her to cooperate, he had her blacklisted with every theatre manager in the city. When that didn’t work, he had her entire apartment building burnt to the ground. Letty knew her only hope was to get out of London.
Luck is on Letty’s side when she overhears a conversation between society wedding planner Lady Agatha Whyte and her beau, who is attempting to persuade Lady Agatha to elope. With Letty’s help, the gentleman is successful and Letty is left holding a ticket for Little Bidewell, Northumberland that Lady Agatha, in her excitement, did not realize she’d dropped.
So, Letty takes advantage of what fate provides and journeys to Little Bidewell. At the station a welcoming party mistakes her for the real Lady Agatha and bundles her off to The Hollies, the Bigglesworth family country house where Lady Agatha will be finalizing the arrangements for Angela Biggleworth’s wedding to the Marquis of Cotton.
Letty couldn’t have planned it better. A hiding place far from the city, plus a new identity. The only fly in the ointment is handsome Sir Elliot March, who happens to be the local magistrate. Sir Elliot is convinced that something isn’t quite right and makes it his job to find out more about “Lady Agatha.” At the same time making it clear to everyone (except himself), that he’s not attracted to Letty.
But how could he not be attracted? Letty is intelligent, courageous and in possession of a remarkable sense of humor. While life may not have been easy for Letty, she cheerfully continues on. But make no mistake, this woman of the world is no Pollyanna and her experience as an actress makes her impersonation of Lady Agatha all the more believable.
I found Sir Elliot to be a bit exasperating for the first quarter of the book. But I think Letty did too. There’s a wonderful scene where Elliot expounds upon the virtues of his ex-fiancée, the odious Lady Catherine Bunting. A dumbstruck Letty can only stare...is he really that dense? Then she turns aside muttering under her breath, “Men.” Haven’t we all been in Letty’s shoes?
Fortunately, Elliot redeems himself as the book progresses and proves to be Letty’s perfect match.
I can’t conclude without mentioning the witty character names the author uses: Lady Bunting, Kip Himplerump, Eglantyne Bigglesworth and my particular favorite, Grace Poole (I knew the name rang a bell, but it took me a few moments to connect it to Jane Eyre).
The Bridal Season would be just about perfect if not for the over-the-top final scene and my early exasperation with Elliot. Even so, I read the entire book with a contented smile on my face and that's high praise, indeed.