, Harper Collins
Judith’s review of Trouble at the Wedding (Abandoned at the Altar #3) by Laura Lee Guhrke.
What happens when a woman is determined to marry the wrong man? When she just won’t listen to reason and rushes forward with wedding plans? When she just doesn’t care that she’s marrying a fortune hunting scoundrel who doesn’t love her? What’s her exasperated family supposed to do about it? Hire a different scoundrel to talk her out of it, of course.
American heiress Annabel Wheaton knows what she wants and love isn’t it. Born in a Mississippi backwater, with a twang as wide as the Delta, she wants respect to go with the millions her daddy found in a Klondike gold mine. But respect isn’t easy to come by in the closed Knickerbocker society of New York, and when the fortune-hunting Earl of Rumsford shows up, it seems like he’s just the ticket to make all Annabel’s dreams come true. When he proposes marriage, she happily agrees. That’s when the trouble starts.
Christian Du Quesne has always been trouble—a rake, a gambler, and when he was younger, a fortune hunter. He married once for the sake of the decaying family coffers, but he won’t do it again. When his older brother, the Duke of Scarborough, dies without issue, Christian become the duke and inherits a whole new pile of family debt with no way to pay it. When Annabel’s family hires him to show Annabel just what she’d be getting by marrying into Britain’s aristocratic class, he knows he’s the perfect person to talk her out of matrimony. Problem is, he only has four days to do it. Can he cause enough trouble in those four days to get her to call off the wedding?
Readers who cut their teeth on Georgette Heyer know that whenever someone mentions “historical romance” fiction, the English Regency period flashes into the mind. But contemporary authors are doing more and more writing outside that staid and possibly overworked period of history and one of those writers is Laura Lee Guhrke and her series that is set in the early 20th century, embracing not only the burgeoning American social scene but also bringing the rapidly changing English society into the mix. In ever greater numbers, English aristocrats are looking with positive acceptance at the piles of American industrial wealth being made available to them by those wishing to marry into the British social circles. It is just such a foray into English society that is the goal of this novel’s heroine. But there’s a bit of a twist here: Annabel was an accidental heiress in the strictest sense of the word. Her missing biological father had hit the mother lode in the Yukon and all the income from those gold mines was now flowing into Annabel’s coffers.
However, money doesn’t heal all wounds! Never to be forgotten were the insults and slurs thrown at her and her family as “poor white trash” during the years when her family didn’t really know where the next meal was coming from.Now Annabel wanted it all to end, not just for herself but for her younger sister, wanting her to not ever have to endure the hurts and slights of snobs, of people who aren’t really any better than they are, but who possess money and social position. Now she has found a man who she believes is steady and predictable, in dire need of her funds, but who will give her social standing in exchange for her paying his bills. It is only after she becomes friends with a man who knows her “intended” well, that she discovers that he is a scoundrel, intending to be keeping mistresses on her dollar. As much as I like historical romance fiction, I have to own up to liking complicated, multi-layered historical romance novels the best. More often than not, they are not predictable, their plots are full of unexpected happenings and changes in scene, the characters are multi-dimensional, and the emotional content is robust, to say the least. So it is with this particular novel!
There’s lots going on, weddings that are “on” and then “off,” friendships that are jeopardized by the unexpected, a story line that embraces just about everything. Ms Guhrke has brought the ever expanding American social scene into close proximity with the British way of life, exposing readers to an American “aristocracy” or sorts that was far more closed and judgmental than some aspects of the English ton. It is a time in American history that is a great surprise to many who assume that everyone was open, adventurous, and risk-taking. Not so. And that was so not the way of things in Eastern society in the early 1900’s. All that being said, this novel is energetic, full of color, guilded with passion and sexual encounters, set against a backdrop that is alive with the sense of a rapidly changing world.
Women were finding a new sense of themselves, managing their own money, pushing society’s behavioral limits–they hadn’t quite gotten the vote yet but it wasn’t far behind–and yet, life could be difficult, even for the newly wealthy. Perhaps the most poignant reminder of that was Annabel’s hurt over having invited nearly everyone of any consequence in New York to a “coming out” ball, and having spent the evening alone–literally not one person came.So for historical romance fans, this book stands out as a truly grand literary effort that will most assuredly hold up to a couple of re-reads, and will testify to the author’s ability to engage the mind and enrapture the imagination with her words. It is a tremendous writing effort that has blossomed into a very fine novel.
I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.
This book is available from Avon. You can buy it here or here in e-format.