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The Rose Red Bride
by Claire Delacroix
(Warner, $ 6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-446-61442-4
Reading The Red Rose Bride for review was a refreshing experience. When you read a lot, plots and characters seem to repeat themselves and it’s easy to become jaded. This book, the second in Claire Delacroix’s “Jewels of Kinfairlie” trilogy, is like a run through the sprinkler on a hot day. It’s a jolt at first, then your brain says “Aah, yum.”

Alexander, Laird of Kinfairlie, has several unmarried sisters that he needs to marry off right away for the good of his clan. Those that are old enough seem to be in no hurry, however, because they are waiting for love. So Alexander uses devious and unorthodox methods to force them, but only in ways that, to him, feel loving and brotherly. In this book, Alexander’s well-intentioned plotting quickly goes awry.

The story begins with Alexander meeting with Nicholas Sinclair of Blackleith, in the hope that Nicholas will make an offer for Alexander’s second oldest sister, Vivienne. Nicholas used to court Vivienne, and Alexander feels a bargain with Nicholas may be the best chance to see Vivienne wed quickly. It is agreed that Nicholas will pay Alexander for Vivienne, and Alexander will leave Vivienne alone in an unused tower room for Nicholas to scale the wall, enter the window and seduce her in the dark of night. Vivienne would then have to marry Nicholas or be ruined.

The plan works at first because Alexander tricks Vivienne into believing that the tower room is enchanted and that a maiden that sleeps there for three nights will be visited by a fairy lover and taken away forever to a land of magic. Vivienne cannot resist the story and sneaks away to spend the night in the tower. She is unsurprised when a figure climbs through the window into the room and participates joyfully in a passionate encounter with the stranger. But instead of going away, the stranger abducts Vivienne, carrying her down the side of the tower and out of the keep.

It turns out that the man with whom Alexander made his bargain is not Nicholas at all, but Erik, Nicholas’ older brother. And Erik has no intention of marrying Vivienne, ruined or not, until she has borne him a son. Erik needs an heir in order to receive aid in regaining his title, lands and children, stolen from him by his treacherous brother Nicholas. He chooses Vivienne as the candidate for mother of his heir because, contrary to Alexander’s belief, it was Vivienne who spurned Nicholas - not the other way around.

Once Erik has Vivienne well away from Kinfarlie he explains his predicament to her. Vivienne realizes that Erik has few choices and agrees to handfast for one year or until she has a son by Erik and they wed, whichever comes first. But they are unable to make their way to safety before an outraged Alexander and Vivienne’s uncle Tynan catch them and imprison Erik beneath Ravensmuir castle, Tynan’s home.

The characters in The Rose Red Bride are very entertaining. Erik was especially appreciated because, unlike so many anti-marriage opinionated heroes, his need to wait before marrying Vivienne is legitimate. Vivienne has to conceive quickly and give birth to a boy or all is lost. He understands it’s a bad bargain for her and tries to back out of the situation gracefully. Vivienne is amusing as well, in that she won’t let him. Vivienne has warm feelings for Erik, likes making love with him, and is not shy about letting him know it. Prior to the tower room incident Vivienne had been curious about the smile on her married sister’s face and wanted to smile like that herself. So Vivienne energetically and happily pursues the making of Erik’s heir.

This is the second book in the trilogy, but it does well as a stand-alone. Although if you enjoy this book as much as I did, you’ll want to read all three. Vivienne’s older sister is the victim of Alexander’s machinations in the previous book and the sisters plot against Alexander in the third. I can’t wait.

--Wendy Livingston

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