An Improper Proposal

Portrait of My Heart

Where Roses Grow Wild

Lady of Skye

Kiss the Bride by Patricia Cabot
(Sonnet, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-7434-1028-9
The first thing readers will notice about Patricia Cabot’s new book is that the cover looks like it should be a new light-hearted contemporary, when it is actually a historical set in 1833. The interesting thing is that it almost reads like one of the new whimsical contemporaries since it has little to do with anything historical, and in Cabot’s hands, it works.

There is little plot I can reveal without ruining too much, but plenty of quirky characters and character development that engages helps me to recommend Kiss the Bride.

Emma Van Court is a young girl of just eighteen when she elopes with Stuart Chesterton, a curate sent to the wilds of the Shetland Islands to perform missionary work. Emma and Stuart elope against the wishes of her parents and Stuart’s cousin, James, the Earl of Denby.

The Earl of Denby has been attracted to Emma and enjoys her feisty demeanor. When it appears she is being drawn into the good works done by his cousin, he gets jealous. When informed that Emma and Stuart are to elope, he loses his temper, hitting Stuart and pushing Emma further into Stuart’s arms. She hates James for hurting Stuart and they run off.

Now, a year later, Stuart is dead, killed by an angry man. This man is hanged and for some reason, leaves his fortune (a mere 10,000 pounds) to Emma. The judge adds a stipulation that for Emma to receive this money, she must be married, because, heaven forbid, she will just spend this money to help others and leave herself poor. This may sound silly, but it fits right in with the tone of the story and adds to the quirky atmosphere.

Needless to say, every poor sort from miles around is courting Emma, including a farmer, an innkeeper’s son and a penniless baron. James arrives, intending to return Stuart’s body to the family plot, and finds Emma in this predicament. He determines that he will rescue her and offers to marry her himself. He promises her an annulment and the freedom to spend the money as she sees fit. Her ideas include sending one intelligent student to a proper school, building a schoolhouse and hospital and helping another young boy with his vision problem.

Now all James has to do is convince Emma he has an altruistic nature that she can respect, gain her trust, and hope she falls in love with him like he is with her. And does James have his work cut out for him!

The characterizations make this story delightful. James is fun while being serious. He is sensual and sexy while being subtle and wary. Emma is a little bit spacey, but she talks her way through and many of her antics struck me as hilarious. For instance, Emma feels sorry for the cow that has wondered from the barn in a storm, so she brings her into her cottage. James, who is sleeping on her couch, is awakened by the cow licking his toes.

The romantic spark is there as James woos Emma and Emma comes to the realization that not only does she love James, but he truly loves her.

The other characters each have traits that are endearing. Fiona is conniving to get James, but she really just wants something better…The Baron is a bit of a bully, but he is kind at heart and just wants money to fix up his castle…The Dowager Lady Denby is interested in society and pretty oblivious to any tensions, adding to the humorous nature of many scenes.

One of Emma’s concerns is the mystery surrounding Stuart’s death. The resolution of this is nothing that I anticipated and was almost funny once revealed…not the act itself, but that Emma has worried herself silly over it.

Kiss the Bride is just what it appears to be: a lighthearted, charming story written in the recent contemporary style in a historical setting. Accept it as that and enjoy!

--Shirley Lyons

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