I picked up this Regency anthology because it has a novella by Judith Lansdowne, who is becoming something of a favorite of mine among Regency authors. After finishing the book, I can say that I am glad I pulled this one off the shelf. Reading it sure made the long trek to Erie and back today (soccer!) a pure pleasure, despite having to listen to Pearl Jam the whole way.
Actually, the Lansdowne story, while clever and witty, lacked the broad humor of some of her books. "The Parson's Mousetrap" is a tale of constant love, charmingly told. The Reverend Jason Farley has just accepted the living at Farns Moor from the widowed Countess of Farnsmoor. His cousin and best friend, the Duke of Weyland is about to marry the countess' daughter, and she wants to be wed in her own parish church. Both the church and rectory have fallen into complete disrepair and the Duke wonders at his cousin's willingness to accept such a seemingly unattractive post. After all, as the brother of a Marquess and cousin of a Duke, the Reverend Farley could do much better.
But Jason has a deeper motive for his actions than wanting to assure that his cousin's bride gets her wish. Seventeen years ago, as a callow youth of 16, he had fallen in love with the soon to be Countess of Farnsmoor and made an utter cake of himself. But although his lady had married another (Jason's ardor looked very strange from Meredith's lofty age of 21), Jason remained true. He hopes that he can woo and win his lady after all these years. His task is not an easy one. Not only does Meredith remember him with less than fondness, but her unhappy marriage has led her to despise the married state. How Jason wins his lady fair left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. A great hero and one of the few well drawn heroes from the clergy that I have come across. Lansdowne often has an unusual take on the Regency which makes her stories most enjoyable.
Valerie King's "The Bride's Gift" is a more traditional Regency plot. Angelique Foxfield is betrothed to Viscount Charlton as the story begins, and her husband-to-be is trying to convince her that he is not good enough for such a beautiful and wealthy young woman. As far as Charlton knows, Angelique is marrying him to please her father who wants his daughter to have a title. Also, as far as Charlton knows, he is marrying her simply to save his estate from foreclosure. He believes that Angelique deserves better than a marriage of convenience.
But of course, Angelique is in love with the dashing Viscount and believes that he loves her too, but feels that his financial position makes him an unsuitable husband. And so she has contrived (with her father's help) to force him to marry her. How these two people who are so obviously meant for each other work through their doubts and uncertainties to true love makes for a most enjoyable tale.
"Bride of Enchantment" refers to a family legend that the heroine, Beryl Carrady has heard since childhood: that the antique wedding dress traditionally worn by her female ancestors will tell the bride if she is marrying her own true love. If the dress becomes white and lovely when the bride puts it on and thinks of the man she is going to marry, then she has made the right choice. Moreover, the dress always appears beautifully white on the wedding day.
Beryl is in a pickle. She is about to marry the friend of her brother and whenever she tries on the dress and thinks of Patrick, it remains yellow and aged. Actually, Beryl had been engaged before to a neighbor she had grown up with, but Joshua had been killed in the war a year earlier. The dress had remained yellowed when she thought of Joshua, too. But she feels compelled to wed. Her sister-in-law is making life miserable for her and for her mother. Patrick is a way out.
Beryl confesses her doubts to her best friend, Charlie Longstreet. Charlie is a schoolmaster; he runs a boarding school in what once was the family estate. He has no prospects, but he does truly love Beryl. There are still more complications that arise before Beryl walks down the aisle in a beautifully white dress to marry the man she truly loves. Liked her; liked him; liked the story.
None of the stories in this anthology break new ground, although the Lansdowne is the most original. All are well written; all have good plots; all have nicely drawn characters. So, if you find yourself driving 126 miles for a soccer game (which I am sad to report, the team lost badly) and you need a good read to wile away the hours, My Darling Bride is a good choice.