The Winter Bride (A Chance Sisters Romance)
Berkley / April 1, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital
Damaris Chance’s unhappy past has turned her off the idea of marriage forever. But her guardian, Lady Beatrice Davenham, convinces her to make her coming out anyway—and have a season of carefree, uncomplicated fun.
When Damaris finds herself trapped in a compromising situation with the handsome rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes, she has no choice but to agree to wed him—as long as it’s in name only. Her new husband seems to accept her terms, but Freddy has a plan of his own: to seduce his reluctant winter bride.
Will Damaris’s secrets destroy her chance at true happiness? Or can Freddy help her cast off the shackles of the past, and yield to delicious temptation?
Captivating and thoroughly entertaining, the second installment in Anne Gracie's Chance Sisters romance series, The Winter Bride, focuses on Damaris, one of the “sisters” taken in by Lady Beatrice as one of her nieces, and Freddy Monkton-Coombs, best-friend of Max, the male protagonist from the first book in the series.
Grateful though she is to Lady Beatrice for taking her in and more or less adopting her, Damaris has no wish to take part in much of the gaiety and frivolity the ton engages in. Given her past as a missionary’s daughter whose parents both met sad ends, Damaris concerns herself with earning enough money on her own to be financially independent.
Freddy, estranged from his parents, occupies himself as part-owner with Max in a shipping company by day, and enjoying his mistress by night. Freddy operates by his own code: no married women or “innocents” will be the recipient of his seductive charms. Mothers of young ladies see Freddy differently, however, so he often has to fend off the attentions from those he refers to as “muffins.”
Both Freddy and Damaris get more than they bargained for when Max and Abby leave for their honeymoon, and Max asks Freddy to keep an eye on his new wife’s three “sisters” (one of whom really is her sister by blood) and his Aunt Beatrice. Damaris engages in an early-morning activity which she would prefer to keep from everyone, and Freddy can hardly believe that he now has what amounts to a babysitting job.
Gracie’s distinctive, engaging characters and flair for dialogue set The Winter Bride apart from the pack in historical romance. From the very beginning, both Damaris and Freddy prove themselves as protagonists worth investing in and rooting for. We first meet Damaris waking from a dream in which we see her trudging across China seeking an English ship to take her to her mother’s homeland. It becomes clear that the dream represents a memory, the traumatic details of which we find out much later in the narrative. When Damaris tells Aunt Beatrice that she does not wish to have a coming-out as she does not plan to ever get married, we admire her immediately for her demonstration of honesty—an attribute she continues to exhibit as the story progresses.
Freddy’s self-cultivated reputation as a rake soon proves somewhat unjustified, beginning with the seriousness with which he approaches his promise to Max to keep an eye on the young ladies and Aunt Beatrice. Though he recognizes the attraction he feels for Damaris, he does not act upon it initially, in keeping with his “no innocents” policy in regards to sexual involvement. Even as his attraction grows, Freddy feels guilty over an impromptu kiss, despite the fact that Damaris seemed to enjoy it at the time. Gracie wisely portrays Freddy not as a bad boy in need of reformation, but as a man making his own way in the world and navigating society without the help of his well-appointed parents.
The highly entertaining cast of secondary characters, lead by the quirky Lady Beatrice, adds an extra level of depth to the narrative. Lady Beatrice’s response to Damaris’s decision that she should forego her coming out since she does not intend to get married demonstrates her kindness and fun-loving nature, as well as provide a peek at the tone of much of the book:
“As for you, my dear gel, nobody said you had to find a husband.”
“But I thought—“
“Oh, the young men will make cakes of themselves over you, too, I’m sure, and quite a number of the old ones, as well, as we’ve seen at my literary society. You’ll have plenty of eligible offers, take my word for it—and a few ineligible ones. But there’s no need to accept any of them.”
“But if I don’t find a husband, isn’t it a terrible waste of money?”
Lady Beatrice’s elegantly plucked and dyed eyebrows rose. “Waste of money? Pish-tush, what nonsense is this? There is only one reason for you to make your come-out, Damaris—to have fun.”
“Fun?” Damaris echoed, bewildered. Squandering a fortune on her so she could have fun?
“You’ve had precious little fun in your life, haven’t you, my dear?”
Damaris swallowed. “How did you know?”
The old lady snorted. “daughter of a missionary? Raised in the Wilds of Foreign? Once could make a wild guess.” She chuckled at Damaris’ expression. ”Cheer up, my dear, nobody will compel you to marry. It would, however, please me greatly if you made your come-out with Jane, attending balls and routs and parties, dancing till dawn, wearing Daisy’s beautiful dresses—and making her the most fashionable mantua maker of the season—"
“From your mouth to God’s ears,” Daisy said fervently.
“—having flocks of men falling over themselves to please you—bringing you champagne and ratafia and delicious morsels from the supper table, sending you bouquets and posies in the morning, writing poems to your eyes—such delightful nonsense.” The old lady sighed reminiscently, leaned forward and patted Damaris’ hand. “You don’t need to take any of it seriously and no one will press you to do anything you don’t want to do. Leave the husband-hunting to young Jane here. You and I, my dear, we’ll just have fun.”
Despite the pitch-perfect humor employed throughout the book, serious issues and circumstances surround Damaris and Freddy, and Gracie handles these with honesty and compassion. The Winter Bride hits all the right notes via a splendidly-told tale filled with love, humor, heartache, happiness, and romance.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie, out April 1, 2014:
A reviewer and editor at Bitten by Books since 2008, Carol also serves as the Director of the Urban Fantasy track at Dragon Con, and in 2013 co-authored The Jane Yellowrock World Companion with Faith Hunter. When not reading, reviewing, or working at conventions, Carol spends as much time as possible with her three amazing grandsons.