Once Upon a Wedding Night
by Sophie Jordan
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-112220-3
Once Upon a Wedding Night by debut author Sophie Jordan is unfortunately not a book that I’d recommend, but it definitely shows potential.

The book begins with the heroine, recently widowed Meredith Brookshire, planning to bilk her dead husband’s newly found half brother of his inheritance by claiming to be pregnant. She needs her home and the income from it, because Meredith is the sole supporter of her mentally ill father, her aging aunt and several misfit servants. The best plan she can contrive is to adopt a baby boy and pass the title on to him, because surely her husband’s half brother is just as irresponsible and neglectful as her husband had been.

Contrary to Meredith’s assumptions, Nicholas Caulfield, the heir, is nothing like his half brother. Nicholas is hard-working and honorable, and is unwilling to accept the title at all until he is convinced by a friend that it is his duty to do so. Meredith finds herself feeling guilty for deceiving a decent man. And after seeing his childhood home, Nicholas is surprised to realize he’s disappointed not to inherit after all. He attempts to act honorably, however, and doesn’t allow his feelings to affect his budding relationship with his newfound “family.”

When Nicholas eventually learns that not only is his sister-in-law NOT pregnant, and worse, his half-brother’s marriage was never consummated, Nicholas decides that his sister-in-law is a scheming liar. Wanting nothing more to do with such a deceitful person, his best plan is to give Meredith a season in London, marry her off to someone, and forget all about her. Nicholas’ plan, like Meredith’s, is doomed to fail because of his growing attraction to Meredith.

There are some likable aspects to this book. It was fortunately well edited (a pleasant change from several other recent books) and it was pretty well paced and fluid. It was descriptive without being bogged down by detail and the love scenes were nice and warm. The secondary characters were well fleshed out and interesting, particularly Meredith’s main suitor and his overbearing mother.

However, I found the main characters to be annoying at times, interspersed with periods of downright obnoxiousness. The hero is especially wearing with his unforgiving attitude toward Meredith. Nicholas feels like it’s perfectly fine to sleep with Meredith, his sister-in-law, but trust her? Never! Meredith was only trying to protect her home and family, albeit in a pretty creepy way, but when Nicholas finally begins to understand that his attitude doesn’t change. Then he does the rudest thing and makes a terrible decision within the space of a couple of chapters, and this reader lost all patience.

The hero’s unending prejudices, and the heroine’s unending sighs over him made the happily-ever-after particularly unbelievable, regardless of the fairy tale title. Once Upon a Wedding Night, no matter how technically pleasing, is not a book I would advise a friend to purchase.

--Wendy Livingston

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