by Stephanie Laurens
The Ideal Bride
William Morrow, March, 2004.
Hardcover, 376 pages.
Michael Anstruther-Wetherby is a successful politician in early 19th century England. In order to further his career, he is expected to come up with the perfect wife: one who can entertain at political gatherings, act as a diplomat and generally be an asset. A logical and forceful man, Michael looks around and decides that he shall marry 19 year-old Elizabeth. Michael doesn't realize that Elizabeth is madly in love with someone else and so sets out to woo Elizabeth, with the help of Elizabeth's Aunt, Caro Sutcliffe. Caro is a young widow who was married to one of England's most prominent politicians, and is herself a skilled political hostess and diplomat. Elizabeth and Caro join forces to make sure that Michael sees Elizabeth is completely unsuited to the political wife. But Caro finds herself in a real bind when, after her plan succeeds, Michael decides that she will do nicely as his wife instead. But Caro has a dark secret and is determined never to marry again.
England's Regency period provides the perfect backdrop for Stephanie Laurens' latest, immensely enjoyable novel. Today's modern woman would simply tell Michael that she's not interested and there would be no story. Setting the story against the backdrop of the ton and the rigid rules which governed upper classes marriage habits creates a situation which calls for the utmost in diplomacy and subtle maneuvering to ensure that Elizabeth's reputation is not ruined by turning down an appropriate marriage offer or by seeming to be too clumsy to be a good wife. The Ideal Bride is extremely funny: Caro's and Elizabeth's masterful maneuvering of the master politician make for some very entertaining reading. Stephanie Laurens turns up the sensuality quotient, providing some very heated love scenes, and a well-executed murder mystery subplot adds to the suspense. Readers who adore the Regency period, a well-executed comedy of manners and a love story full of deep emotions should look no further.
The Ideal Bride is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the March-April, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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