The Heir & the Spare

A Groom of One’s Own
by Maya Rodale
(Avon Books, $7.99, G) ISBN 978-0-06-192298-5
A Groom of One’s Own is a tongue in cheek tale of a jilted woman who has tried to bounce back, yet finds herself in a supremely ironic situation.

In June of 1822, Miss Sophie Harlow is the toast of her small town in England, engaged to marry Matthew Fletcher.  Matthew is handsome, charming, and wonderful, but he doesn’t love Sophie.  Halfway down the aisle on her wedding day, wearing the Harlow family veil and her beautiful wedding dress, Matthew tells Sophie that he’s sorry, but he has met someone else.

Sophie is heartbroken, angry and determined to make sure that she doesn’t sit and rot in town, pitied by everyone.  She sells her wedding dress and moves to London with her best friend, Julianna, where they both scandalously become writers for the London Weekly. Ironically, Sophie is hired to report on weddings, which the author notes at the end of the book says didn’t actually happen during the Regency era, but she then gives examples of how women were actively involved in publishing as early as 1709.          

Anyway, one year after the disastrous walk down the aisle, Sophie’s column is hugely  popular, she enjoys being a girl reporter and having enough to eat (as the income from her writing is the only thing keeping her from the streets), but she hates the weddings. Every Saturday, she presents her newspaper vouchers, watches multiple weddings, and always panics as the bride walks down the aisle. Sophie wonders how she will make it through watching another bride get jilted as she was.  Once the bride and groom meet, she miserably wonders why she didn’t pick that man to marry, instead of Matthew.  At the very least, each unknown groom has stayed long enough to marry his bride…and Sophie decides that she wishes to meet a true gentleman, one who would never back out of an engagement.

Sophie randomly meets a wonderful man, Mr. Brandon, who has gorgeous green eyes and a straightforward, friendly manner.  She is so excited and overwhelmed by their chance meeting that she immediately begins to wonder if the day will come that she will get married again.  Sophie also receives a surprise invitation from the Duchess of Richmond with an offer to exclusively cover the wedding of her only daughter Clarissa to the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon.  Sophie is thrilled with the exclusive invitation and makes plans to meet the bride and groom for an interview. 

Upon meeting the groom, however, she receives quite a shock: her nice Mr. Brandon is the “double duke” and set to be married in a matter of weeks. Sophie tries to beg off the story, but her boss won’t hear of it, so she’s forced to watch Clarissa and Brandon plan their wedding.  However, while they spend time together, she and Brandon seem to get along better than ever and their attraction grows to unmanageable levels that are starting to be noticed by others.

Sophie soon finds out that she’s unfortunately received her wish – she has met a true gentleman, one who will never back out of an engagement, regardless of his own feelings.

A Groom of One’s Own is funny, sweet, deeply romantic and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Brandon’s struggle between his serious ducal duties and his shockingly inappropriate attraction to Sophie is well written, and darkly detailed. Rodale could have glossed him over, making him nothing but a hero mannequin as many authors do to their leading men. She chose instead to turn him into a real person and explain the reasoning behind his actions, for which I am grateful. It makes Sophie’s instant liking of him all the more understandable.

Sophie is funny, witty and her writer’s notes of the boring and formal ton functions make them a lot more fun than they should actually be. Sophie has a way of putting into print what everyone else is thinking but would never say.  She saves the day in this novel, making Brandon act like a human being, melting the ice in the various characters’ frozen veins, and generally livening up each scene.

My only issue with the is the pure schmaltz that seemed to decorate each meeting between Sophie and Brandon. Their instantaneous, combustible interest was draped in a cotton candy coating that got old, really quickly. Sophie seems to be an intelligent kind of girl until she decides she’s fallen in love with Brandon right off the bat. Yikes. Also, Rodale could have spared readers Brandon’s tormented soliloquies about responsibility versus passion.  One would have been enough to explain his actions, I think.

This is the only part of the story where Rodale addresses the very unlikely actuality of a double duke marrying a newspaper reporter, a woman who’s not from his class, who also works for a living. While us ordinary girls may like to stand up and cheer for another ordinary girl marrying the hero of her dreams (who also happens to rank high up in the nobility of England), the reality of something like this happening, no matter what the time period, is very remote.

Other than that, A Groom of One’s Own is a witty, fun, romantic story, and I liked it.      

--Amy Wroblewsky  

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