STARRED REVIEW
April 24, 2018

Nice guys finish best

By Lisa Berne
Review by

In her latest installment in the Penhallow Dynasty series, The Bride Takes a Groom, Lisa Berne takes all the classic elements of a Regency romance and turns them upside down. The most charming surprise is the hero himself, who stands out from the legion of Regency leading men before him by being kind, pleasant and affable.

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In her latest installment in the Penhallow Dynasty series, The Bride Takes a Groom, Lisa Berne takes all the classic elements of a Regency romance and turns them upside down. The most charming surprise is the hero himself, Hugo Penhallow, who stands out from the legion of Regency leading men before him by being kind, pleasant and affable. Hugo is not a cad or a rake, nor is he the relentlessly proper image of decorum. He’s not cold and bitter from a broken heart, nor sarcastic and snide from a chilly upbringing. Instead, Hugo is a genuinely sunny soul, reared by a delightfully quirky family he adores. While he is marvelously well connected through his influential family name and strikingly handsome (in a gentle jab at the usual tropes, nearly everyone he meets compares him to a Greek god while he politely refrains from rolling his eyes), Hugo is so impoverished after his military service that he must marry well or see his family become destitute. Despite this, Hugo never seems gloomy or desperate. He genuinely believes he can live happily ever after, and hopes to build that happiness with heiress Katherine Brooke.

As the daughter of absurdly wealthy and deeply shallow parents (a clever bit of set dressing has their library filled with handsome leather volumes, with weighty and important titles stamped on the spine, and pages that are entirely blank), Katherine’s sole responsibility is to be a dazzling social success. So of course, her greatest wish is simply to be left alone. When she’s forced to socialize, she plays at taking on the personas of the heroines she admires from the novels she sneaks in under her mother’s nose. After all, being herself has never worked out well.

Katherine and Hugo marry quickly, but a true union takes longer to form. The forthright Hugo struggles to connect with a Katherine, who has always known who she was supposed to be but hasn’t the faintest idea who she truly is. It’s her journey to selfhood that makes Katherine so frustrating and fascinating—especially when she starts to move from being the leading lady of a melodrama to being a heroine in her own life. Does she really want to be a belle dame sans merci, or can she let herself choose to be kind? The answer, once she discovers it, is as sweet as the chocolates she also used to sneak behind her mother’s back and that she comes to share with the husband she eventually allows herself to adore.

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