ORDER A COPY: The Quizzing-Glass Bride
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publishing Date: April 4, 2013
eBook: 74 pages
Rating: 3 stars
When Lady Fern Reynolds confided in a sympathetic houseguest that she was considering running away to London to escape betrothal to an unknown suitor, she did not expect him to offer her shelter. And she certainly did not imagine tumbling for him, the Viscount Sandford. But that was the least of her surprises, as she discovered the wedding was to go on as planned–and her groom was strangely familiar.
Lady Fern didn’t realize why a dinner with Lord Warwick was requiring her to wear a ridiculous dress of frills and beads and this hideous hairpiece and tiara, that is until she heard the servants twittering on about her upcoming engagement to him. It has been five years since last time Lady Fern saw his lordship after he caught her feeding sweets to his horses, and all she remembers is his stunning eyes and his beard. Now they were expecting her to marry him, without even discussing it with her. And how can she even determine if she likes him when her mother has forbidden her from wearing her glasses. They are unbecoming to a lady. Of course, so is falling on her face because she can’t see where she is walking. So it is no surprise to her, when the evening is a complete failure.
When the handsome Viscount Sandford (a/k/a Lord Warwick) comes the next day to speak to Fern’s father and finds his bespectacled betrothed crying in the library, he realizes that she wasn’t being rude to him. She couldn’t see him. He believes this is his chance to secretly find out what her objections are to the marriage. He quickly understands that he made a mistake in ignoring his impulse to speak with Fern first, and comes up with a plan to help Fern sneak away to London to avoid the marriage.
He now needs to go forward with care. Confess his duality her too soon and his plans might falter, but wait too long and he risks destroying the fragile feelings which are developing between them.
I chose a copy of this story because it seemed like an interesting concept but it turned out to be an unremarkable story. For a short story, the first 10 pages are a conversation between Fern and her maid, who was written with an odd and very annoying accent and made it annoying to read. As it was the beginning of the story, it would have read better without the accent and allowed us to get into the story sooner. The dinner party was also written very awkward. Fern’s parents are uninterested in their daughter and are written as typical aristocrats. Her mother keeps fainting under the smallest duress and her father just wants to disappear to his library. It is hard to believe a headstrong woman like Fern would (1) come from parents such as these, and (2) allow her mother to push her into the ridiculous outfit and allow herself to meet a man she was supposed to marry without her glasses on when she can’t see at all without them. I might have given up at this point, but since it was only 70 pages, I thought I would keep going.
It does pick up when Lord Warwick posses under another of his titles as Viscount Sandford and gets to know Fern and understand what are her objections to marrying Lord Warwick.
Unfortunately, then we are getting back to some far fetched storytelling since we have a reverse Clark Kent/Superman disguise since she can’t tell the difference from the man she met at dinner without her glasses (even though he kisses her) and the man in front of her when she is wearing her glasses. We also have the not very well thought out plot of disguising Fern as a page and bringing her to his London home, where he is planning on hiding her in his bedroom and his staff is to believe she is a boy.
There just wasn’t much to this short story to allow for these awkward plot points.
Received ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher.
She was dressed in a simple gown of rose sarcenet, with a tantalizing underslip of the purest white–silk, he thought, but he could not be sure. She was turned from him, a book open upon her lap. She had not read a word for ages. He could see, for the fifth page of Ivanhoe was stained with tears.
He made a small movement, then startled in surprise. It was not the bright, abundant gold locks that arrested him, for he had glimpsed them the night before, beneath the appalling headpiece. What captured his attention was the revealing satin ribbon dangling down the nape of her neck.
What a clodpoll he was! The lady wore spectacles! It would explain much, he thought, especially her cutting of him at the outset, when she had rudely brushed past his extended hand. Oh, there had been myriad clues…Now that he thought on them he was only astonished he had not perceived it before.
What a pother over nothing!
He peered at her closely. The spectacles were charming and distinctive. Common iron, with loops at the end of each temple for a securing ribbon. A bit dark, perhaps, for her piquant face, but that could be rectified. Good Lord, he could have gold ones wrought if she so wished! It was not that uncommon–Lady Asterley had famous silver spectacles; there was the new tortoiseshell…But he ran ahead of himself. He was not home and hosed yet, he was certain.
Ivanhoe was growing wetter. The lady was now weeping quite freely. He wondered whether it would be diplomatic to depart unseen, or have himself announced.
The decision was wrested from him by the lady herself, who looked up at the precise moment he was pondering this conundrum. The book slid from her lap with a large crash, and she jumped up guiltily, affording the gentleman an utterly guileless smile.
“I am sorry, sir. You have caught me trespassing on Sir Peter’s library! I am not usually such a watering pot, only…”
“Oh, I should not burden a stranger with my troubles! Step inside, and I shall call a servant. Sir Peter is hunting, I believe, but if it is urgent a footman can be sent…”
Warwick did not hear where the footman could be sent. He was too astonished to vouch-safe anything but the mildest reply as he regarded her with suddenly acute eyes. Good Lord, she behaved as though she did not recognize him! And her charming demeanor was at such odds with her behavior the previous night, it could hardly be credited!
“Miss Reynolds, do you not know who I am?”
Fern looked startled. “Should I? Your countenance is certainly familiar, but I cannot perfectly recall ever being introduced. But I am such a shatterbrain, you must forgive me! If we have met, it was probably in London, and my first season, you know, was an unmitigated disaster!”
“That I cannot believe!” Warwick was gallant more by habit than by choice. His mind was far too active wondering how the devil the girl did not recognize him. Either she was playing a very deep game, or he must tread carefully. Perhaps, if she did not recognize him, it would give him a fresh start, time to talk to her without her prejudices or angers or fears. Fern might slap Lord Warwick in the face the next time they met, but she would surely treat a stranger with more courtesy! Warwick decided rather whimsically that he would rather be the stranger.