Series: Vawdrey Brothers #2
Published by Self-Published on March 21st 2018
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enella Thane is a desperate woman. Her absentee husband of eight years has served her with divorce papers and she looks likely to lose her beloved home and be forced into a convent.
There is just one slim chance to avoid this fate, one person of prominence at court who she knows has the ear of the King. Oswald Vawdrey, the man who cruelly jilted her when she was a starry-eyed fifteen year old with a head full of romantic dreams.
Fen swallows her pride and rides to the King’s court at Aphrany to beg for Lord Vawdrey’s intercession. But Lord Vawdrey is not the charming boy she remembers, and he has no interest in halting her divorce. Instead, he has quite different plans for his former intended bride.
Fenella is about to discover there is more to Oswald Vawdrey than meets the eye. And she may not be quite so forsaken as she once thought…
I was so excited to find this sequel story featuring Mason’s brother, Oswald. He was the thoughtful and considerate brother in Book 1. But Oswald might have become more coldblooded in the four years between stories. The romance between Fenella and Oswald was building nicely. Unfortunately, the story eventually fell flat for me when the conflict turned stupid and ruined all the bonding between the characters.
This review will contain some spoilers, a little ranting and a comparison between the two book in the story. You might want to get comfortable.
Her Bastard Bridegroom, now change to the more politically correct Her Baseborn Bridegroom, was one of those finds which caught my attention enough to grab a copy. I really like the characters in that story and it has become one of my “go-to” books when I just need to read but don’t have the time to focus on a new story. I was re-reading it just the other day and when I was finished I checked Amazon and surprise, surprise, the second book was just released that day. Talk about perfect timing, and since I don’t have enough books to read, I picked up a copy and jumped right on this.
Book 2 was almost twice the size of Book 1 and I could have done without about half the story. The basic premise of the story is that Lady Fenella Thane finds out from her sister-in-law that her husband (absent the last two years) is going to the King to ask for a divorce from Fenella. Fenella grabs her worthless brother and hightails it to Court. She hopes that her former betrothed, Oswald Vawdrey, who is now an influential member of the King’s Court, will assist her and keep her husband from making the request.
What Fenella doesn’t know is that Oswald just heard a rumor that the King has brought his new soon-to-be mistress to Court and the only way she will jump in bed with him is if the King provides her with a titled, wealthy husband. The King has been thinking that the unmarried Oswald will be a perfect patsy for his plan. When a meeting with the King hints that those rumors are not just Court gossip, Oswald realizes he needs to figure something out and quickly. Oswald has no intention of marrying the King’s latest side-piece nor will he be forced to accept the King’s bastards as his own heirs to his family’s title. But how to thrwart the King?
Fenella arrives at Court and is too late since the King already granted the divorce. She approaches Oswald with a copy of the betrothal contract and Oswald realizes that Fenella is the perfect solution to foil the King’s plan–a bride who Oswald married by contract 12 years ago (we will come back to this). So Fenella suddenly finds her life tossed in the middle of chaos and having to accept a new husband in the form of the handsome but distance Oswald.
There is a lot that I liked about this story. There were some great, short scenes between the different characters and the building of romance and friendships, but unfortunately there were some larger issues which ruined what could have been a great sequel. Part of this is caused by the fact, as the author notes, that Book 1 was intended to be a stand alone story until she received a large number of requests for Oswald’s story. In Book 2, she had to work around some already standing plot issues, such as the fact that Mason told Linnet that their father kept betrothing Oswald to different women trying to get a better deal each time. And as long as she is writing a sequel, she is also working in characters and future storylines for brother Roland’s story and also for at least one of Fenella’s friends.
If Court is like high school, Linnet in Book 1 becames friends with the Queen and her chosen ladies in waiting (the cheerleaders, if you will), but Fenella found herself eating lunch with the geeks and misfits of the Court. I loved how she blossomed with these friendships and in turn, how she helped them blossom.
We see Oswald’s growing attention to Fenella. Vawdrey men are like dragon’s and are very possessive of what is their’s–especially their wives. I would have liked to have heard more thoughts or words of Oswald’s growing affection, and not have to assume it based on his actions toward her and knowing that this was intended to be a romance.
As Oswald’s affection for Fenella grows, the more Oswald is obsessed with the fact that Fenella was married for eight years to another man, culminating in his requesting an annulment to that marriage (even though she is already divorced) in order to strip every aspect of that other relationship away. He was obsessed with the fact that she spent eight years of their contracted marriage with another man.
The one issue that really bothered me is that Fenella is noted as being overweight. After she arrived in Oswald’s office he notes her as “dumpy and plain.” She just rode to Court after days of travel in the rain, wearing an ugly travel dress purchased by her cheap husband. After announcing that she was in fact, Oswald’s wife pursuant to the signed contract, he has her borrow a dress so he can present her at Court. The lady’s maid who comes to help her makes a comment that Fenella has more “meat on her bones” than the lady she borrowed the dress from, and that she would have to let the seams out of the dress first. Well — if I borrowed a size 8 dress from my friend, there wouldn’t be enough seams (or material) to let out and make that dress fit. So I am guessing Fenella has maybe had 20-25 lbs over the rest of the ladies at Court, and seemingly, a significantly larger bust size. That doesn’t make her corpulent! Plus, isn’t this equating our standards of beauty to a woman. This story is supposed to be medieval. Wouldn’t a few extra pounds denote a weathly woman, someone who could afford lots of good food? Plus it would give her those large breasts which the skinny girls wouldn’t have without today’s plastic enhancements. Remember Marilyn Monroe was a sex symbol and a size 16 and that was as late as the 1950s. Even when Oswald first begins to think kindly of Fenella, it is to note that she has the voice of a siren, but he still thinks how odd such a “drab little female” could have such a sexy voice.
It was after Fenella has a bath, puts on a pretty dress which was draped to flatter her figure and had her hair done fashionably, that Oswald starts to be concerned that the other men in Court (including the King) who might show an interest in his wife. While disparaging words seemed to disappear, I would have like to have noticed Oswald turning his thoughts of Fenella as being curvacious rather than large. Hell, I would have even been happy to have him obsess about her big breasts. We have to make assumptions of Oswald’s growing affection to his wife. This is particularly funny since Oswald was the one in Book 1 to tell his brother Mason that he needed to show more affection and give his new wife kinder words. Oswald also tells Fenella when they finally have sex that it has been over a decade since he had sex so if I was being bitchy I could think that Oswald’s growing obession for his wife has more to do with the fact that he realized he likes sex more than he has growing attached to his wife. (Let’s not even talk about the fact that even though Oswald hasn’t had sex in 10 years, he was incredible at it and lasted forever!)
What was also disappointing is that I would have liked to see more confidence from Fenella the more time she spends with Oswald. She was dumped by him at the age of 15, after three years being engaged to Oswald, then she spent eight years married to a bland, uninterested man who criticized everything, and then we finally see a growing regard between her and Oswald. But she was still acting like an abused spouse throughout the story, always jumpy and apologizing and afraid to offend, and things kept happening to poor Fenella that usually left her crying and you simply felt bad for her. I would have like to see Fenella blossom as her relationship with Oswald grew. Oswald didn’t want to speak to Fenella about his work, and at one point he and his assistant were trying to decipher letters written by a possible spy and couldn’t figure out the code. I was hoping that Fenella would stumble on the letter, thinking it was some kind of puzzle and help decipher the code. Something that would prove her intelligence and allow her to assist Oswald in his work rather than just to look pretty at Court.
What really ruined the story was the fact that the “conflict” was stupid and ruined everything growing between Fenella and Oswald. A plot point that would have easily been avoided if Fenella had quickly brought Oswald into her confidence like he kept telling her to! He is the spymaster for the King. He would have gotten the matter taken care of quickly and quietly. Meanwhile, a perfectly good destructive plot point from the beginning of the story is ignored.
Getting back to Fenella and her betrothal contract, Fenella walks in with this betrothal contract to ask for Oswald’s help and it is perfect timing for Oswald. He then tells her that what she has was in fact a marriage contract not a simple betrothal contact and they were technically married for the last twelve years. Oswald then excuses himself to take care of some business. That business being that he needed to go see a forger to change the document and they discuss what slight difference there is between a betrothal contract and a marriage contract.
THEY WEREN’T REALLY MARRIED!! HE FAKED THE DOCUMENTS!! He had someone mess with the contract to make it look like he was married all along so the King couldn’t force Oswald to marry his mistress! This is the big drama I was waiting for the whole story…Fenella finding out that not only did her first husband betray her and divorce her, but that she has been sleeping with her new husband, Oswald, for the last few months but they were never lawfully married. How is she going to react when she finds herself screwed over by two men–the second of which she fell in love with?? Will she be heartbroken or will she get pissed?? Or even worse, if the King found out that Oswald lied about the marriage, would the King then try to force Oswald to marry the mistress afterall, or would he have Oswald arrested for lying and screwing with his plans? I don’t know if the author thought that Oswald and Fenella couldn’t come back from that kind of betrayal, but if you aren’t going to deal with this giant lie between them, why didn’t she just take out the forging part and just make it so Oswald read the contract as really being a marriage contract? Don’t give me an important plot point like this and then ignore it. It. Makes. Me. INSANE!
There was a few tweeks here and there that would have vastly improved the story, but an entire re-write would be needed to fix the whole conflict issue of the story.
One final note, as a reviewer, I constantly received advanced copies of books which have not had a final polish to them. I have gotten to the point that I generally don’t even see typos or gramatical errors as I read. But when I purchase a book which is intended to be a final sale copy, then I really dislike finding so many errors. This is a constant problem with self-published books, and while I believe a good editor is worth the money it would cost, in this case, I am talking about errors that would have been found if the author had just asked a friend to give it a quick read. There were typos, incorrect words and sentences where the author obviously changed how she was going to phrase a line of text but then didn’t re-read the new sentence. There needs to be a review period between typing “The End” and hitting the “for sale” button.
I was disappointed with His Forsaken Bride but mostly over the lost potential in what could have been an incredible story.
(I left in the grammer issues in this sample.)
Fen bit her lip, and laid her stockings over the arm of the chair. “Would you rather be viewed in history as a villain, or a victim of circumstances?” she asked. Then added rashly: “I think I’d rather be a villain.”
Oswald straightened up and gave her a quizzical look. “You, a villain?” he repeated, unlacing his tunic.
“Yes,” agreed Fen enthusiastically.
Oswald cocked his head to one side as if considering it. “And what villainy would you be guilty of?” he asked.
“P-poisoning?” she suggested uncertainly.
Oswald’s lips twitched, and she thought for a moment he would laugh.
Fen felt unaccountably annoyed. “I could be a villain if I wanted to,” she said, plunking a hand on one hip. She cast about wildly for something other villainous women could perpetrate. His gaze seemed to linger on her, and Fen remembered she was stood only in her thin shift. “I could be a scheming seductress,” she said unthinkingly. To her surprise, the humor seemed to drop from Oswald’s face.
His eyes travelled over her and seemed to darken. “Prove it,” he said in a husky voice and threw down the cloth he was drying himself with.
Fen caught her breath. What?
He crossed the room, and to her disappointment, instead of drawing her into his arms, he brushed right past her and walked toward the bed. Fen swiveled on her heel to turn and watch as he climbed onto the bed. Unusually, he was still wearing his white linen braies. Fen frowned, her husband always slept naked. He settled on his back, his arms folded behind his head.
“Come and seduce me, Fen,” he said, and crossed his ankles.
Something about this casual pose, irritated her. Did he think she couldn’t?
“I will,” she fired up. Then lapsed into a thoughtful silence, as she cautiously approached the bed. One glance at his tented braies assured her he was not as indifferent as his pose suggested. “You did lock the door, didn’t you?” she asked momentarily distracted.
He definitely smiled at this. “Yes, stop stalling for time, madam wife.”
“I’m not,” she frowned, sitting on the edge of the bed next to him. Thinking of Linnet’s words, she placed her hand on his muscular belly. From his reaction, she guessed it was not the reassuring touch her sister-in-law had spoken of. Oswald’s stomach muscles rippled beneath her touch, and he gave a muffled noise of surprise and something else. Her eyes flew to his.
In answer to the question in her gaze, he said, “I thought you would kiss me first.” To Fen’s surprise, he sounded slightly breathless. He withdrew his hands from behind his head and reached up to grip the headboard. “Don’t stop.”
Fenella had left her hand where it lay, and at his words, she traced the bunched muscle with her fingertips. This time he drew in a sharp breath, before letting it out again on a shudder. Fen was enthralled. She had no idea how she was doing it, but it was definitely working. A notion struck her, and before she could lose her nerve, she stood up from the mattress and drew her shift over her head, before dropping it on the floor. The flickering candlelight was hopefully more flattering than the cold light of day, she thought hopefully as she turned slowly in a small circle, displaying herself for her husband to view. Her gaze flew to his for reassurance, and she was almost scorched alive. Oswald Vawdrey’s gaze was searing. He hadn’t moved an inch, and his eyes were glued to her. Emboldened, she clambered onto the bed, trying to make her movement fluid, then swung a leg over his, so she settled across his muscular thighs.
He groaned at this and shifted under her slightly. She knew a moment’s panic that she might be too heavy, but before she could voice it, he ground out.
“Move higher up, Fen.”
“Are you uncomfortable?”
“You could say that.”
She glanced down at his burgeoning crotch area and shook her head. “Not yet,” she said, remembering his own unhurried explorations of her body. She felt tingly and a little breathless at this point herself. He huffed, and she place her hands daringly on his inner thighs. His body jerked, and he let out a startled exclamation, half sitting up.