Anne Gracie's "The Winter Bride" - #2 in "The Chance Sisters" series

The Winter Bride - Anne Gracie

 

A nice story if all you're looking for is a comfort read at the end of a stressful day.

 

Freddy, who has no intention of ever marrying, has been asked to be the male protector of the elderly Lady Beatrice and her three "nieces" who live with her, while their actual guardian is away on his honeymoon (see the previous book in this series, "The Autumn Bride"). Freddy is attracted to Damaris, one of the "nieces", who also has no intention of ever marrying. Damaris is sneaking out of the house every day and walking into an industrial area of the city to work in a pottery manufactory in order to save up enough money to be independent. When he can't convince Damaris to stop working, Freddy decides to accompany her to work and back and so they become friends and share some parts of their stories. Freddy then convinces Damaris to a false betrothal to get his parents off his back - they have organized a house party and invited a posse of "muffins" (Freddy's term for the young single society women who try to get his notice) for Freddy to choose from, and he *must* be betrothed to one of them by the end of the party. Of course, as tends to happen in these stories, the false betrothal becomes a true one and a happy ending ensues.  

 

So far so good, The trouble is, the characterization of Freddy and Damaris is too superficial. They're both very nice people, but both of them, according to their back stories, are very, very emotionally damaged, especially Damaris. Damaris grew up in China as the daughter of a fire-and-brimstone missionary whose post was finally attacked and burned down, and her father murdered. Damaris managed to escape from China with her life but nothing else, and was brutally "used" during her sea voyage back to England (there was only one way she could pay for her passage ...) Freddy is pretty much estranged from his parents because they blame him for causing the death of their first son at 14 years of age (Freddy was a few years younger), and Freddy has a huge guilt complex about it too.

 

Damaris' and Freddy's backstories are, unfortunately, not described as they are happening, but simply as Damaris and Freddy telling each other their stories, i.e. second-hand, so the reader isn't really emotionally invested in the stories as they would be if the action had been happening right in the story. With all this drama in their backgrounds, I would have expected a more intense, emotionally fraught, angsty story, but it wasn't like that all. Damaris and Freddy are both easy-going, lovable characters who don't really appear to need much help with healing emotionally. I think the author missed an opportunity here, or maybe couldn't be bothered to take advantage of it.