The Vengeful Bridegroom
by Kit Donner
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1-4201-0847-7
The Vengeful Bridegroom is a typical historical romance, with added suspense, and it does an acceptable job of keeping the reader entertained for a few hours.

Madelene Colgate is the fixer in her family, the person that everyone goes to see to solve their problems.  Unfortunately, Madelene’s brother Matthew is a bankrupt, selfish seducer who always seems to be running short of money and Madelene’s expectations of him.  Since their father passed away, Madelene’s had to try to keep her brother out of trouble, but she never knows what he’s planning to do next.

When we meet Madelene and Matthew, he’s just cooked up a scheme to solve their pressing financial obligations.  Madelene is a beauty who has stood up a couple of grooms at the altar. Matthew figures that if he sets up a pretend marriage between Madelene and his gay friend Brelford, no one will be the wiser of the situation.  Matthew will set up another fellow to collect bets on his behalf, as no one will wager that Madelene will get to altar this time.  Madelene goes along with Matthew’s crazy idea to help get the family out of debt, but then things take a very strange turn.

Gabriel Westcott is Matthew Colgate’s enemy, and he has been waiting to make Matthew suffer for what he did to Gabriel’s sister, Lucinda.  He finds out about Matthew’s marriage wager plan for Madelene, and figures that he will get even.  He shows up at the Colgate home when Madelene is home alone, convinces her that he is the gay friend that Matthew has sent, and marries her before Madelene or Matthew can think that this is a marriage of revenge.

When Madelene finds out who Gabriel is, she’s astonished and angry.  All she wants is to get back to her brother and her family home.  However, Gabriel’s had a change of heart, and he likes Madelene.  They begin to like one another, but when Gabriel begins to tell Madelene what Matthew has done in the past, their tenuous bond begins to dissolve just like sugar in tea, and everything begins to fall apart.

The Vengeful Bridegroom had some good points, some bad points and even some ugly points, but I will lay them out for you and let you decide for yourself.

The good: Gabriel is a charming hero, determined, strong and likeable. Though he could be painted as the villain in the beginning of the piece, he is so honorable and open hearted that it’s hard not to see his point of view.  

I also liked how Gabriel and Madelene treated each other while married in the book; they did maintain a carefully realistic period-appropriate marriage.  This was a nice change because the brash, modern dialogue of a 2010 era woman coming out of a Regency era lady’s mouth is a little hard to believe.

The background cast of characters is amusing, there is a real patchwork of personality to support Gabriel and Madelene’s story.

The bad: Madelene is an idiot.  She seems to have every rehearsed, silly backup story to explain why she does ridiculous things to support her frankly crazy brother, but it doesn’t add up.

During the more suspenseful scenes, there was so much going on with so many characters that I couldn’t decipher who was doing what. That’s annoying!

The ugly: The book was way too long.  Scenes, discussions, issues were drawn out to the point that I didn’t care whether or not they got resolved, just that the chapter was over. Also, Madelene and Gabriel had very little in common, no chemistry and bad blood between them throughout the story.  I guess that it’s a good thing that divorce was frowned on back then, otherwise I believe they would have been headed there.

--Amy Wroblewsky

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