03 January, 2012
Review: Trouble At The Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke
This time around we have the title hunting steel magnolia Annabel versus Christian the (say it with me) Duke. Let's just go ahead and call him Duke, since every man in Romanceland is now a Duke. Anyway, it is very difficult for me to read an American character, especially a southern American character, without getting annoyed. (I imagine it's how the UK feels about every single romance we put out.) Guhrke has dodged that bullet. Her Annabel might drawl but she doesn't dither, she fights without being feisty and she is never going to be called spunky. This is an American without a chip on her shoulder. She wants to fit into British Society and she wants it bad. (Here we pause for a wrong note. Twice her family mentions that they are 'poor white trash'. It's unfortunate that the white is added. While it's a common phrase we are dealing with turn of the century Southern characters, which brings all the post slavery and nascent Jim Crow baggage along. Since this book, like most of Romanceland is All About The White People, tossing the descriptor in threw me out of the story. I have family of that era on both sides of the money tree and that phrase is not in their letters, diaries, or late life conversations. It is a phrase I associate with racists, and my Edwardian to Clinton Era cousin would have as well.)
Right, back to our tale. The Duke is broker than broke and he is offered a fair amount of cash to get Annabel to break it off with her intended fiance. (Where did her uncle get money? Never exactly answered.) Said fiance is (luckily for our Duke!) an uncaring creepster who just wants to be a billionaire so freaking bad. Our Duke isn't interested in marrying for money. He went down that road once before and his Princess Di didn't fare so well. Trapped on a luxury liner with the wedding party, he tries to wake Annabel up to the reality of life under Rumsford. Instead, he reminds her of her weakness for bad boys. Here the book might be the strongest. Annabel and Duke under the pressures of their conflicting desires are far more interesting than your average seafaring couple. It's not so much that the tale weakens when they hit land, but if all had been resolved on the boat I might have loved this one even more.
Annabel and England take to each other fairly easily. England has gotten used to American heiresses since Mr. Duke's time and Annabel is highly motivated. Soon she's realizing she might not have to marry to achieve her goals, she might have just needed the change of venue. Of course, that can't last or Mr. Duke wouldn't get the chance to realize he needs her. So it doesn't, and he does and there it is. I felt the ending was a bit rushed and I really didn't like the theming at the end at all but it was a sin I could forgive. I'd say the first 2/3 of the book was a great read and the last 1/3 had some high notes but dipped a bit lower. Avon has (at least for now) come to their senses on the whole Agency Pricing thing (ok, not completely, but they've stopped charging more than the paperback's going rate) so you can get the eBook for a reasonable $4.99 USD at the moment. On all fronts I'd say things are looking up for the Abandoned At The Altar series.