|Two people often feel attraction to each other, and for reasons unknown to either tend to bring out the worst in the other. They often can’t see the good because they have convinced themselves of the bad. That is the scenario we find in The Wanton Bride with Mark Hunter and Emily Beaumont. Mark isn’t sure why, but something always put him off Emily, especially when she would use her waspish tongue. Emily found Mark to be handsome but feels he treated her brother badly. But circumstances change and now they must join up to find Emily’s brother Tarquin.
Tarquin has always been a bit of a gambler and wastrel but he always managed to avoid all-out scandal. Mark, one of Tarquin’s friends, often loaned him money, until the time that Mark turned Tarquin in and made him spend a night in jail for non-payment of his debts. Emily has detested Mark ever since and is only forced to see him when she visits her friend who is now married to Mark’s brother Jason. The tale opens as the family is realizing that Tarquin has been missing for a few days. There is fear that one of his schemes or shenanigans has gone wrong. Emily’s father is doing some polite inquiry, but frankly, doesn’t completely want to know if a scandal is brewing. Emily seeks out Mark and asks for his assistance. At the same time, she is approached by a rather shady character named Mickey Riley, who infers he has knowledge of her brother.
The tale about Tarquin is a bit convoluted and at times almost unbelievable but the plot line does bring Mark and Emily together. They start to realize they have feelings…whether it’s lust or attraction is the question. Mark is currently embroiled with a mistress (a widow) who has hopes of being his wife. Emily just got out of a relationship with a Viscount who seduced her and then dumped her for an heiress with a bigger dowry. Emily was able to avoid scandal because Tarquin managed to create a reason for the broken betrothal.
We have Emily searching for Tarquin, with Mickey trying to blackmail her and the Viscount adding another distraction as he is determined to be reunited with Emily despite his marriage. We have Mark, trying to decide what he is feeling, while fighting his anger at Tarquin for putting the family in these straits and trying to dislodge himself from the attentions of his mistress. He too is searching for Tarquin.
If the reader can believe the premise, then the story will carry you along with a blend of humor, romance, intrigue and even some tense and suspenseful moments. Emily is generally a good heroine, not sinking to vapors or unseemly actions when she is pushed. Mark is a rescuer, and at times, a nice romantic. The tale hangs on their relationship. There is a slight twist when Mark discovers Emily’s previous indiscretion and yet he revels in her strengths. This aspect of his character made him both human and very likable.
One of the odd things that caused me to struggle was the apparent lack of caring on the parents’ behalf. Emily’s father is either not too smart or totally out of touch with his family. Her mother acts like the only thing that matters is their place in society. Yet, if that is the case, where was she when Emily was being seduced? Tarquin is initially a caricature of a nobleman, but he redeems himself by the end of the tale.
Despite the inconsistencies and at times, the unrealistic scenarios, I did enjoy this tale. The pacing was good and Brendan writes a story with some depth in Regency atmosphere. In the end, the positive aspects of The Wanton Bride outweighed the bad.