The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

In brief: The second book in the Chance Sisters series features Damaris, who is never, ever going to get married and rake Freddy, who thinks in a similar vein. So of course, they need to fake a betrothal to each other…

The good: Witty, a tiny bit cheeky and loads of fun.

The not-so-good: I need to wait for the next book in the series, The Spring Bride.

Why I chose it: Have heard lots of great things about Anne Gracie, thanks to ARRA for this book as a prize.

Year: 2014

Pages: 324

Publisher: Penguin (Michael Joseph)

Setting: England & China

My rating: 9 out of 10

I have a thing about historical romance. I love historical fiction and I love romance, so why is it that I don’t read a lot of historical romance? Historical romance is a subgenre that just hasn’t worked for me in the past – either I find the historical details lacking or the plot sacrificed for period detail. I’ve dared to hope that it’s been because I just haven’t found the right author yet. Happily, by reading The Winter Bride, I can say that Anne Gracie writes everything I want in a historical romance – wit, charm and just a hint of naughtiness. She writes like I think Jane Austen would if she was a modern novelist. I thoroughly enjoyed The Winter Bride and I look forward to devouring Anne Gracie’s novels and then fan girling her at the RWA conference in August!

The Winter Bride is the second in the Chance sisters quartet (book three is due later in 2015), each book focusing on the romantic entanglements of four girls (who are not all sisters) taken in by a rich woman and presented to society. I haven’t yet read the first book in the series (The Autumn Bride) and I didn’t have any difficulty in picking up the story. The only spoiler you are likely to find is who marries Abby, but if you’ve read the blurb, you will likely have guessed that. The Winter Bride focuses on Damaris, a woman some might describe as headstrong, but she has reasons for wanting her independence. Damaris doesn’t want to be married and is prepared to work in secret to obtain the little cottage in the country where she can live peacefully, alone. But Freddy Monkton-Coombes has been entrusted to look after the three Chance girls while good friend Max is on his honeymoon, and despite his fear of ‘muffins’, he will take it seriously and do his best. Fortunately for Freddy, none of the girls are muffins (girls looking snare a man in marriage by whatever means possible) and he finds himself admiring Damaris. He then puts a proposition to her – fake an engagement to stop his mother throwing a muffin party at the family estate. But things turn rather dramatic and the pair end up being compromised…

I can’t put into words how much I loved this story. It’s historical romance, but with a cheekiness that puts it above and beyond other books I’ve read in the genre. Everything is historically accurate, but there’s a freshness that enchants the modern reader. I love how Anne Gracie does this – it seems like her characters could step into my world with ease. The attraction and wit between Damaris and Freddy is also brilliantly done – they spar with a crackle of electricity radiating through the page. I knew that they were going to get together but the journey was so wonderful, I was happy for numerous obstacles to be thrown in their path. Freddy was revealed early on to be so much more than a careless rake that I instantly warmed to him.

The story isn’t all acerbic jocularity though. Damaris has had a horrible time in returning to England from China, where her father was a missionary. The way Gracie revealed what happened to Damaris in stages made me feel even more for her, as just when you think things can’t get any worse, something else is revealed. The last reveal culminates in a cross-England race to find the culprit and punish him, with Damaris and Abby in close pursuit. It makes for a wonderful read. But there’s still more to be revealed after that and the story finishes with a moving tearjerker, which was quite fast in revealing the truth but a lovely closure.

I’ll definitely be hunting down Anne Gracie’s other books. I think I’ve found my historical romance crack here!

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