Alas, My Love

The Cad

The Challenge

The Chance

The Choice

The Conquest

The Devil's Bargain

For the Love of a Pirate

Gypsy Lover

How to Seduce a Bride

The Return of the Earl

A Regency Christmas

To Tempt a Bride

To Wed a Stranger

Bride Enchanted
by Edith Layton
(Avon, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-06-125362-6
Edith Layton is one of the most popular authors of Regency-set historical romances, and sheís even penned a few paranormals to boot. I canít blame an author for writing something different; unfortunately, Bride Enchanted takes forever to get where itís going, and by the time it arrives, readers will likely have lost interest.

Eve Faraday is nonplussed when, at a ball, the handsome and enigmatic Aubrey Ashford asks her to dance - twice! and then announces he intends to propose to her. Eve knows sheís no raving beauty, and though her dowry is respectable, itís not a great fortune. Why would this man, who has most of the ladies of London a-flutter, pay the slightest attention to her?

Aubrey does show up at Eveís home, where her widowed father is all too happy to give his consent to a courtship. Aubrey explains that Eve reminds him of someone special from his past, but insists he is drawn to her, personally. After a few weeks of his attentions, Eve finds herself agreeing to marry him. By now sheís half in love with Aubrey, anyway.

Aubrey whisks her away to his family home, Far Isle, which is somewhere in western England near the Welsh border. It appears to be a magical place, with a charming house and a beautiful wood surrounding it. Aubrey continues to be affectionate to Eve, and their physical relationship hits its stride. Aubrey doesnít tell Eve he loves her, of course, but things seem to be going well, and Eve has hopes that someday heíll come to love her as she loves him.

And thatís about it. Oh, occasionally Aubrey drops a Dark Hint or two that heís not quite like other men, but itís all vague and rather pointless until a villainess shows up to force his hand. By this time, it was a chore to keep reading.

The pacing in this book was off - way off. It would have worked much better as a shorter novel, maybe a novella, but instead itís almost 375 pages long. After Eve and Aubrey get married, the book wanders along, going nowhere, while Eve pines for Aubrey and Aubrey ruminates that he can never feel love, etc. After 250-plus pages of this, the author finally exposes the Big Secret, not that readers will be very surprised, and the rest of the story deals with Eveís reaction to the news.

Aubrey is one of the least interesting heroes in recent memory. Heís bland beyond belief, since all he does is treat Eve well and ponder the fact that he is fated never to feel true love. A dash of snarky temper or male hissy fit would have actually improved his character. As for Eve, sheís likable, but also not very memorable.

Edith Layton is a terrific author when sheís at the top of her game, but Bride Enchanted isnít it. This book is so plodding, so unlike her others that I have to wonder if it was some editorís ill-conceived idea to throw in a paranormal element. Ah, well. At the risk of a mini-spoiler, at least Aubreyís not a vampire. For a better example of Laytonís writing talents, check out some of her backlist and give this one a pass.

--Cathy Sova

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