At the Bride Hunt Ball by Olivia Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Don't you love it when you don't have high expectations about a book and it turns out to be a delightful read? That's what happened with this book. Knowing its premise was similar to the TV show The Bachelor - a group of girls gathered in the same house for a period of time with the sole objective of catching the coveted bachelor -, I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this read. Well, I'm glad I overcame my initial prejudice because At the Bride Hunt Ball ended up being a very entertaining read.
Gabriel Devine, the Duke of Wolverest, has sworn off marriage but he knows he needs to start "producing" heirs to carry on the title, so he decides his younger brother, Lord Tristan, is to be married and to take care of the "heir issue". Gabriel's plan is quite simple: invite seven young ladies (and their chaperones, of course) to a house party at his country estate, so his brother can get acquainted with them, "evaluate" them and, after a fortnight, choose the "winner".
Madelyn Haywood is one of the seven ladies selected to participate in the "contest". She doesn't really want to go because she doesn't have any interest in mingling with the "rakish" Devine brothers, but her stepmother forces her to go. Madelyn finds another reason to go when she discovers that her friend Charlotte, who's been in love with Lord Tristan for years, is also one of the selected ladies, and Madelyn vows to protect her too dreamy-eyed friend from Lord Tristan's wicked ways.
At first, Gabriel plans to make himself scarce during the house party, as he has no interest in getting himself involved in the "contest" as long as Tristan comes out of it with a bride in tow, but he can't resist Madelyn. She isn't like any other woman he's ever met, and he can't help falling in love with her and questioning his decision to never marry. On her side, she slowly realizes that he isn't the cad she thought he was, and falls for him too. He blunders his marriage proposal but, as this is Romancelandia, it's just a tiny bump in their way to the HEA.
As described above, the plot of this story was quite simple and straightforward, with no unexpected twists. What made this book so enjoyable was watching Gabriel and Madelyn interact and fall in love with each other. I smiled, laughed, sighed and, at one point, even hurt with them. Gabriel was a bit arrogant sometimes - after all, he was the Duke of Wolverest and he could do anything he wanted! - but he was completely helpless when it came to Madelyn. She was adorable in her clumsiness, and I was very happy to see how Gabriel helped her overcome her insecurities.
All in all, I had a great time reading this book, and I recommend it to anyone who likes a light and sweet romantic comedy set in Regency England.
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