REVIEW: Tempting the Bride

Sherry thomas
Tempting the Bride (Fitzhugh #3)
Berkley Sensation
Historical Romance
October 2, 2012

Book blurb from Goodreads:

Helena Fitzhugh understands perfectly well that she would be ruined should her secret love affair be discovered. So when a rendezvous goes wrong and she is about to be caught in the act, it is with the greatest reluctance that she accepts help from David Hillsborough, Viscount Hastings, and elopes with him to save her reputation.

Helena has despised David since they were children—the notorious rake has tormented her all her life. David, on the other hand, has always loved Helena, but his pride will never let him admit the secrets of his heart.

A carriage accident the day after their elopement, however, robs Helena of her memory—the slate is wiped clean. At last David dares to reveal his love, and she finds him both fascinating and desirable. But what will happen when her memory returns and she realizes she has fallen for a man she has sworn never to trust?

Picking up where I left off blog-wise, it’s time to see how the latest series from historical romance-writing sensation Sherry Thomas has panned out. The previous two books were not my favorite of her work and in fact made me not a little batshit crazy from time to time. I can’t say this one made me much less so, but then something happened…I believe it was something almost like reader contentment!

Before I go much further, yes, there will be spoilers, and sorry, but it’s a little necessary because of the way the series is done, each book interwoven, basically. Also because I still can’t wrap my head around the logistics of the Fitzhugh family, but all in good time.

I have to admit up front that I wasn’t expecting to like this one much better than the last two and many readers are confuzzled by readers like me. Why would we go on to read if we didn’t enjoy two prior books? I established in the previous books’ reviews that they’d become a bit crack-a-licious in scope for me. I can’t really explain it other than I had to keep up with what had become for me some really crazypants stuff, the kind you can’t look away from. Fitz’s deciding to settle into a cozy, adulterous affair with the long-time love of his life while his wife Millie seemingly approves. And Venetia’s wild romp of an affair across the Atlantic on an ocean liner with a duke no less – aim high, Fitzhugh family, aim high.

These reasons in a nutshell are why I cannot understand why Helena’s desire to have an adulterous affair with a married man makes Venetia and the others gasp like fish on the shore. While, sure, no one could actually do anything about Venetia abandoning her family in America to hop on the Love Boat, because she didn’t let on to anyone her feelings unlike Helena who seems to be an open book, but come on. And then there’s Fitzy-boy, who I suppose we must attribute the fact that he’s the family golden boy. Everyone is so gosh damn sympathetic to him and his life-long sweetheart that they just tisk in sympathy and pat him on the back as he prepares to blatantly have an affair in front of his wife, society and every sheep in the idyllic damn county he was going to buy a house in. Did this make either of them into selfish ho-bags? For some miraculous reason it did not. but it makes Helena all kinds of selfish, horrid wrong. Let me be clear, I thought they were all rather selfish, and not a little ho-baggish at times.

Let’s be clear here. Helena’s family and their small army of servants spends a great deal of time over the years being, for lack of better terms, Helena’s jailors. They watch her like a hawk and aren’t above having the maids tie Helena down if it comes to be that necessary. They do everything they can to assure Helena that her particular game of love is wrong wrong wrong while never treating themselves to the same whilst they were at the height of their own indiscretions.

I was prepared to wince my way through another book in the series where the other couples frequently interrupt any meaningful development of Helena and Hasting’s relationship, but it was as if this was the book the series was trying to be. I mean that, I got the sense that this was the series’ ultimate goal all along, because Helena and Hastings’ relationship is in fact not constantly bombarded by Fitz/Millie/Venetia/Lexington moments – though we are treated to a couple of small ones that assure readers all is a bit sickeningly sweet in those arenas. (Since I wasn’t a big fan of the other books, seeing them this go around came across as pretty cloying and overly done – hello, Fitz and Millie, stop making out in front of a supposedly sleeping Helena and get a silk-wallpaper-clad room of your own.) Helena and Hastings hold much more of a center stage in this one, and I can’t help but wonder why the need to write the series as it was. Helena and Hastings felt like the reason for it all, with much better character development, thank goodness.

As for the main couple themselves, I’d heard many weren’t a fan of the amnesia plot, but now what? It sure as hell helped Hasings and Helena to become more likable in my book. Hastings’ need to be constantly nasty to Helena to hide his true feelings of unrequited love didn’t endear him to me at all. Helena’s ridiculous lusting after a married man didn’t make her a likable character either. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t read any other amnesia plots (or very few cuz I can’t remember any – heh.) but this one felt like a much-needed shower to cleanse away everything about the series that had been irritating me up to it. Suddenly Hasings and Helena both were just…nicer. While I know both had their reasons for behaving as they did (if I’d been Helena I’d have wanted to tell my family to shove the hell off), I couldn’t find any motive to sympathize with them. The amnesia that Helena deals with really brought them both out of their hard-headed-ness in a way that, frankly, saved the story for me. I can’t say that they’re going down as a favorite couple, but they’re a vast improvement over the previous books.

But I do have to wonder – what in the heck is up with turning Hastings into Beatrix Potter? While on one hand it is utterly adorable that he is not only some kind of curly-headed Adonis who is also in fact a devoted father and painter of wonderful anthropomorphized animal books for children, but on the other hand – really? This need to saccharine sweeten up the series at times was too much for me. It was also a little mind-boggling for me because I truly love the work of Beatrix Potter and can’t fathom the need to turn the accomplishments of such a wonderful female artist and writer around so that it’s a man who’s bringing to light such parallel talents in this case. The twist it’s supposed to bring to the story just didn’t work for me.

On one side, this book was the best of the series for me personally. I really did come to enjoy the melting of Hastings and Helena to one another. Their story just came across as more genuine and believable. On the other, there was still too much saccharine goody-goodness displayed by Helena’s siblings and their significant others for me to enjoy it fully, because they weren’t really held accountable for their affairs as Helena doggedly was. I’m also on the fence now with the author’s work and don’t feel like I’ll readily jump on new work, which is a shame. This series is just not up to par with past works that blew me away.

Rating: Three Scoops

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