The Reluctant Bride by Beverley Eikli

A young woman has her head turned by a dashing soldier, who turns out to be a ne’er-do-well, and then slowly falls in love with a man who seems cold and aloof on first meeting, but who has a heart of gold. So good, so Pride and Prejudice.

But the superficial similarity with Jane Austen’s classic is belied by what seems to be a more realistic depiction of life for a woman in the Regency period.

A Nod To Austen

The heroine, Emily Micklen, is both Lizzie Bennett and her wayward sister Lydia as she gets pregnant by the deceitful Jack Noble, to whom she was engaged, just before he is killed in a brawl over another man’s wife. Angus McCartney was his commander and must tell Emily the bad news. He softens the blow to this woman he already loves by telling her Jack died a hero. Seeing her a few months later in her pregnant state he makes her an offer she can’t refuse, since she’s been thrown out of her father’s house; his hand in marriage. And so Emily must come to love her husband while slowly finding out just how much of a cad her Jack had been.

But this isn’t just a love story; it’s also a spy thriller. While the Napoleonic Wars don’t seem to bother the Bennett’s or their social circle, for Emily and Angus they are a threat to the English way of life. Angus is recruited to take on Jack’s role as an agent helping the few French families working to overthrow the Emperor. While doing so, he finds out much more about his wife’s errant fiancé that only confirms his worst opinion of the man. He also finds out a little something about Emily’s family that puts her loyalty to England in doubt.

A Believable Heroine

This book was an excellent read. I had forgotten how much I love the Regency period, having started with Georgette Heyer’s books before moving to Austen. I also enjoyed reading about the male perspective (which Austen famously didn’t feel qualified to write), and a man like Angus is one you want to know better! Devoted to his wife, never forcing himself on her in her grief and shielding her from the truth about her precious Jack. Emily is both knowing and very naïve, more of a mixture than any Austen heroine, and perhaps more believable for it.

A Little Raunch With Your Romance

If the spying seems a little tacked on and superfluous to the love story at first, it certainly grabs you and drags you into its swirling depths when it starts to get personal for the characters you have come to care about. This book will satisfy the reader who likes a little raunch in their romance, and a little adventure to set the blood racing, all wrapped up in one book.

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