by Virginia Farmer, contemporary/time-travel (2003)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52560-7
Spenceworth Bride is related to the author's previous book Sixpence Bride. In 1797, Nelwina Ham is being auctioned off by her lousy husband. She made a wish to be someone else, and a Gypsy spell allows her to change places with present-day heroine Jocelyn Tanner. Poor Jocelyn, by the way, has no say in this body switch but thankfully, her story Sixpence Bride ends with a happy ending. Spenceworth Bride is Nel's story and how she finds love in present day. Don't worry if you haven't read Sixpence Bride though: this book stands alone very well.
As Jocelyn found love with the man that bought "Nel", Nel finds love with the man that plays the man that bought "Jocelyn" in the modern day reenactment of a wife sale. The man is Adam Warrick. "Jocelyn" falls unconscious at Adam's feet and he finds himself taking her in. His mother Sophia moves in with them and starts to meddle even as she tries to find her own happily ever after with her guy. Later, Jocelyn's husband Philip will come in to cause trouble.
Spenceworth Bride, like Sixpence Bride, is a cleanly-written and easy to digest story. There is nothing objectionable about this story, but there is not much depths to it either. I don't really know anything about Nel or Adam as their characterizations are never developed beyond the superficial.
But its biggest problem is how the author is unable to capture any contemporary feel in her, er, contemporary setting. Nel keeps insisting that Adam is her betrothed because he's "bought" her and her 18th-century beliefs persist to the last page. Adam indulges her in this belief. Then again, the author gives him a title, Lord Spenceworth. For a book that needs a contemporary feel to it pretty badly, the last thing it needs is the heroine going around calling Adam "Lord Spenceworth". It will be nice to see Nel come alive to enjoy the freedom afforded to a first-world twenty-first century woman, but the author is more content to have Nel cook, sew, and act like a helpless doll instead. Oh well.
Sophia's subplot only adds to the 18th-century historical feel of this book: her boyfriend insists that he's not worthy of her because "I am a commoner. I have no title, no pedigree. You deserve someone of your own station". What, Sophia is the new Queen of England or something? (And if today's tabloids are anything to go by, one must be insane to want to marry into England's Royal Family, unless one wants a starring role in a soap opera populated by horse-faced people.)
Because the characters, the conflict, and the setting don't come off as contemporary in any way, I can't help feeling that Spenceworth Bride will have worked better if the heroine has been sent forward in time to 1897 instead of present day. Still, this book is readable enough for a few hours of decent entertainment, provided the reader doesn't mind too much that the contemporary characters behave like 19th-century people and the characters are one-dimensional cookie-cutter sorts.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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