Let me begin by saying that I love Christina Dodd. I have been reading and enjoying her work since her early days. She is an expert at creating tension between characters, as well as writing delightful dialogue and wonderfully steamy love scenes. Believe me, I am as disappointed as anyone that I feel the need to rate her latest effort at three hearts. While My Favorite Bride does indeed contain moments of witty dialogue and a couple of great love scenes, the characters seemed lacking - they never came to life. That, along with the fact that this book was inspired by “The Sound of Music,” combined to make this a read which just wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.
It is 1834, and former pickpocket (now a respectable governess) Samantha Prendregast is in dire straits. It seems that her sharp tongue and her need to meddle in the affairs of others have cost her yet another position as a governess. At a loss as to what to do with her next, her employer, Lady Bucknell sends her to work in the mountains of the Lake District. Samantha, born and bred in the city, finds this prospect terrifying. However, this is one place from which she will not be turned away. Colonel William Gregory, a widower and father of six daughters, is desperate. He has gone through a total of eleven governesses, all driven away by the behavior of his difficult daughters. Lady Bucknell warns Samantha that she must not under any circumstances inform Colonel Gregory of her past as a pickpocket. He apparently has a zero tolerance policy as far as stealing is concerned.
William is a hardened military man. He is tormented by guilt over the death of his wife, which was caused by his military activities. He feels guilty that he was not able to protect her, but even worse over the fact that he never really loved her in the first place. When Samantha arrives, William has just about resigned himself to “let himself be snared by” Lady Marchant, a friend of his wife’s. The children need a mother, and Lady Marchant fulfills all of his requirements: She is of his social class, has a pristine reputation, and a “well-modulated voice” (what kind of requirement is that, anyway?).
Upon her arrival, Samantha realizes that she has three challenges before her: winning over her six difficult charges, dealing with her stubborn, opinionated employer, and coping with the physical attraction she feels towards him. William is immediately attracted to her, as well. When Samantha informs William that the girls need to be taught the social graces, he invites Lady Marchant to stay at the house and help him plan a house party and ball. Once she arrives, the three settle into an uneasy triangle. Lady Marchant is certain that William will offer for her, but immediately senses the attraction between William and Samantha.
While the plot may seem straightforward enough up to this point, it gets pretty murky towards the middle of the book. Colonel Gregory’s spy activities are described, and the spy subplot begins to dominate the story. This is unfortunate, because this subplot is not only confusing, but a good deal less interesting than the romance. I felt lost in a sea of unknown characters, and I didn’t really care about any of them. The house party became the scene for all the action - both the romance and the espionage. While it should have been exciting, I just became confused and frustrated.
I had a difficult time relating to both Samantha and William. They were stubborn and often unreasonable. William takes his hatred for thieves a little far, calling Samantha a “lying little thief” just pages before the end of the book. I wouldn’t be running off to the altar with someone who had just referred to me that way. Samantha herself is no bundle of joy. She is difficult and impulsive, although I did admire her spunk. While I enjoy verbal sparring and banter as much as the next person, these two never really seemed to have anything nice to say to one another, unless, of course, they were in bed. There, at least, they were able to behave cordially. Lady Marchant was the most interesting character in the book. She was witty, intelligent, beautiful, and insightful, and on more than one occasion I found myself fervently wishing she were the main character of the book rather than Samantha.
Let me finish up here by admitting that I was never a fan of “The Sound of Music” in the first place. I always thought of it as kind of dark and depressing, not to mention way too long. I guess the best thing I can say about My Favorite Bride is that I liked it better than the movie. If you are a fan of “The Sound of Music”, or Christina Dodd’s “Governess Brides” series, by all means give this one a try. However, if you are looking for an introduction to Christina Dodd’s work, you may want to try something that provides a better showcase for her many talents, like A Well-Pleasured Lady.