Virginia Farmer’s Spenceworth Bride took me a week to read. Not because this stand-alone sequel to Sixpence Bride is a difficult read, but because it’s an uninteresting one. The reading experience is a little like playing show and tell. There’s too little show and far too much tell.
The year is 1799. Nelwina Honeycutt’s husband accuses her of stealing, and decides to resolve the matter by putting her up for sale. She stands on a block before a crowd, closes her eyes, and wishes she were somewhere else.
In “present day” Ramsgil, England, Adam Warrick reenacts the wife sale with Jocelyn Tanner. She tumbles from the block and knocks her head against the wood. When she regains consciousness, her confusion leads Adam to take her to Spenceworth. Once there, she realizes that she’s both in unfamiliar surroundings and in a strange body. Nel has mysteriously traveled in time more than two hundred years. In a panic, she visits Gypsy Hilda, who tells her a little about the current time and advises her to enjoy it. “For now, this is your destiny. ’Tis best to settle in.”
Spenceworth Bride follows Nelwina (Nel) and Adam as they fall in love, but it’s an uninspiring journey. Nel’s struggle to become acclimated to her new life is the best aspect of the book. Nevertheless, she’s a remarkably bland character. What readers know about Nel is that she can sew, garden, and cook. We don’t know much else about her.
The equally flat characters of Adam and his mother, Sophia, compounding this obstacle. Sophia, a secondary character, has the most dialogue, and that’s a problem. She’s also part of a romantic subplot with a man named Niles. Their main conflict seems out of place for a present-day setting. Here’s Niles’ argument: “I am a commoner. I have no title, no pedigree. You deserve someone of your own station.”
Then there’s the fact that many conversations are mentioned after they occur instead of shown. Nel’s revelation scene simply doesn’t exist on the page. Readers know that Nel has talked about her history because Sophia reminds Adam, “She lived here in the late seventeen hundreds, dear.”
Adam doesn’t believe this; instead, he wonders whether Nel has lost her mind. In fact, he spends too much time wondering and not enough time interacting with her. This was particularly evident when Farmer describes Nel’s longing for him:
“She’d missed Adam these three days. She found herself wandering the halls, listening for his voice or the tread of his feet. She’d poked her head into his study simply to inhale the scent of old leather and sunshine. Smells that reminded her of Adam.”
This might have been more poignant and convincing if Nel and Adam had shared a more significant conversation than one about her health.
I was halfway through the book when I set it aside and read a few others I bought recently. If I hadn’t been reading Spenceworth Bride for review, I wouldn’t have finished it. Save yourself the trouble by skipping this book and making a dent in your TBR pile, instead.