|Reese’s Bride is the second book in the Brides trilogy, and it is a poignant story of lost love and family, carefully balancing on the knife-edge of painful hope.
Elizabeth Clemens is in a tough situation when we meet her at the beginning of the story. At seventeen, she was madly in love with Reese Dewar, and after one night together, Reese left to fulfill his role as a major in the British cavalry. Reese didn’t know that Elizabeth was left pregnant with his child. She was terrified and finally bullied by her father into marrying Edmund Holloway, the Earl of Aldridge a couple of months after he left.
Edmund passed away suddenly, leaving Elizabeth and her young son Jared alone except for her in-laws, Mason and Frances, who move into the Aldridge estate. Elizabeth begins to suspect that she is being poisoned, and Mason and Frances are the ones who would benefit from her death. With Elizabeth out of the way, Mason and Frances would be able to control Jared and his fortune as the Earl.
Reese Dewar returns from war only because his leg was damaged in battle. Once he learned that Elizabeth broke her promise to marry him seven years earlier, he purposely stayed away. Now he’s back at the family estate, trying to work out a way to be a gentleman farmer and re-build his life. He had dreamed that Elizabeth would be by his side, but her betrayal made that impossible. Reese has buried his broken heart under a layer of cold reasoning, and he won’t forgive Elizabeth for marrying another man after accepting his marriage proposal. He hopes to never see her again.
Elizabeth evaluates her terrible predicament with the Holloways, and decides to flee to beg for protection from the only person she trusts, Reese. Reese is stunned to see Elizabeth and Jared on his doorstep, but Elizabeth prevails on his honor as a gentleman and a soldier to take them in. Reese doesn’t feel like an honorable gentleman, but he can clearly see that Elizabeth is ill and Jared is scared, so he invites his aunt to chaperone the visit and hopes as soon as Elizabeth recovers, she’ll get out of his home and his life. The former lovers try to figure out a way to come to a truce while they reside under the same roof, but Elizabeth still hasn’t told Reese about Jared’s true parentage and now that Reese has agreed to protect them, he’s in danger from the Holloways as well.
Reese’s Bride is a very well-written love story, and the deeply realized characters help the common plot play out nicely. There aren’t any big surprises or twists and turns in this book.
Reese isn’t a tragic figure, thank goodness. He’s suffered the slings and arrows of fate, but has managed to come out as unscathed as possible and made his own way through life. Reese is passionate; he starts out very angry with Elizabeth but his feelings soon turn into a confusing mixture of lust and longing. His desire to do what’s right for Elizabeth and Jared regardless of his own feelings makes him even more attractive. Reese’s strong relationships with his brothers, Royal and Rule and their detailed conversations in the story really help provide insight into what Reese is thinking and help fill in his emotional conflict.
Elizabeth is also a wonderful character. She refuses to be devastated by the awful things that her past has led her to. She could have easily succumbed to her situation, becoming weepy, defeated, or miserable but she doesn’t. Elizabeth is a protective mother, a courageous lady and she’s contrite and apologetic to Reese, knowing that she can’t make up for her mistake. Her relationship with Jared is beautiful, she’s such a loving mother and her feelings are so carefully detailed that any reader who’s also a mother will really connect with her. Elizabeth’s dark marriage with the Earl definitely impacts her new relationship with Reese but it really helps the story along, Reese and Elizabeth together are very compatible. Their chemistry builds slowly and realistically, adding to the depth and believability of the tale. While their love scenes grow hotter, their emotions become stronger and more confusing, and I loved the way that Martin handled the conflict and opposition.
The addition of the Holloways as the bad guys provided a good diversion from Reese and Elizabeth’s growing attraction, but it was a fairly standard action/mystery subplot. Again, there weren’t any big surprises found in the Holloway’s behavior, and it served to further the love story but it wasn’t stellar. Even the revelation of Jared’s parentage was really easy to predict from the beginning. While a lot of the story was predictable as the plot was fairly standard, the characters did make the read worthwhile, and I do recommend Reese’s Bride to those readers that enjoy historical romances.