The Accidental Bride

Almost Innocent

The Emerald Swan

The Hostage Bride

The Least Likely Bride

To Kiss a Spy

Valentine Wedding

When You Wish

The Widow's Kiss

 
The Wedding Game by Jane Feather
(Bantam Books, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-58620-3
****
The Wedding Game is the third in a sister trilogy. Prudence, Constance, and Chastity Duncan publish a broadside called The Mayfair Lady, devoted to their late motherís suffragette views. They also run a matchmaking service of sorts, in which gentlemen write to The Mayfair Lady and describe the sort of wife they want. In this story, Chastity must find a wife for a man to whom sheís attracted herself, against her better judgment.

Chastity meets Dr. Douglas Farrell in an art museum, where sheís disguised and using a fake French accent. Her first impression is heís an attractive man. Then Douglas lists the qualities he wants in a wife, mainly that she be rich, socially connected, and able to bring gout-ridden nobles and ladies with megrims to his door so he can build a wealthy practice. Charity, repulsed, upbraids him for thinking so little of his prospective brideís emotions, but Douglas is determined.

Douglas has an ulterior motive. Son of an Edinburgh physician, he doctors the poor in several of Londonís worst slums, and the cost to do so is high. He needs wealthy patients to offset the many who can pay nothing. A rich wife will do nicely. He isnít planning to let his heart be involved anyway Ė his work does that.

Chastity discusses the situation with her married sisters, and decides to arrange a meeting between Douglas and Miss Laura Della Luca, an imperious, half-Italian woman who has come to London with her widowed mother. Douglas is invited by his mysterious matchmaker to a social afternoon at the Duncan home, where he is told to look for a lady wearing a white carnation. Douglas thus meets Laura, and her wealth and social aspirations might do nicely. But his interest is also captured by Miss Chastity Duncan, who apparently has the same qualities Ė but seems to hold him immediate dislike. Why, when heís never met her?

Laura might fulfill all of Douglasís requirements, but itís Chastity heís drawn to. At the same time, Chastity is also trying to foster a romance between her despondent father and Lauraís mother, and it seems to be going much more smoothly. Smoothly enough, in fact, for Chastity to propose inviting the Della Lucas and Douglas to the Duncan family Christmas at their small country manor. Now all she needs to do is throw Douglas and Laura together, while keeping her identity of matchmaker a secret.

But the attraction between Douglas and Chastity canít be denied, and soon they are entangled in more ways than one. Douglas will have to re-examine his quest for a rich wife, particularly after Chastity discovers his slum practice and reacts in an unexpected way.

Other reviews of this book have made mention of Douglasís rather calculating pursuit of a wealthy woman. That didnít bother me too much, but what did seem to be a huge gap in logic was his belief that he could keep his slum practice a secret even after heíd wed. Douglas knows that any wealthy clients would desert him if it were known he helped the poor. But disappearing for afternoons on end to tend to them would be rather hard to disguise over time, especially with a managing wife like Laura.

Douglas is definitely a tad forceful. Chastity is more than a match for him, however, and their romance feels quite natural. The time period isnít detailed, but Iím guessing itís circa 1910, with references to motorcars, suffragism, dancing the quick-step, and the fact that Chastity is not a virgin, another little detail that seemed a bit out of place for a woman whoís an Honorable.

Douglas does most of the transforming in this book. His attitudes seem set in stone at the outset, but once the reader gets to know him, heís quite an interesting character. He makes an intelligent case for caution in giving women the vote, based on his experiences with society types who have no interest in political news. Chastity, of course, will have none of it, which made her seem a bit obtuse.

The pacing felt quite uneven, especially in the early chapters. Jane Feather usually keeps her stories moving along briskly, but here the characters get bogged down in page after page of conversation and description that seems to exist only to rehash whoís who from the previous books. It takes fifteen pages to set up a scene at a family dinner, for example. The book stands alone, but the backstory is shoved in the readerís face rather forcefully. Maybe I noticed this in particular because I havenít read the other two.

However, once Douglas decides to find out what Chastity is all about, things pick up and the rest of the book is quite enjoyable. Chastity and Douglas heat up nicely, and their romance sparkles. Heís not what she thought. Sheís much more than he imagined. Itís delicious.

The Wedding Game is going to please fans of this trilogy. Jane Feather hasnít lost her touch with witty, intelligent heroines who like taking charge of their lives, and men who find thatís just what they want.

--Cathy Sova


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