The Wayward Bride by Anna Bradley
For the first book in a new series, The Wayward Bride contains a lot of references to events which happened in a book in a completely different series, that being More Or Less A Temptress, which was the third in the Somerset Sisters series. We first met Isla Ramsay in that book when her older brother courted Hyacinth Somerset, and Isla got herself involved in a scandal for Hyacinth’s sake which saw her get engaged to Lord Sydney, a gentleman she likes very much but doesn’t love.
As it happens, I’ve read that book and very much enjoyed it, but if you haven’t you’re just going to have to roll with the plot as it’s presented, and trust me that’s it’s very much worth the occasional moment of wondering what’s going on. And it’s worth it because you get not one, but two fantastic romances here; Isla’s with Lord Pierce, the marquis she was well on the way to being in love with before the Incident which saw her get engaged to Lord Sydney, and Sydney’s… which is an actual M/M gay romance. It’s not hinted at in the blurb, which is pretty brave of the author because undoubtedly some prejudiced types are going to react badly, but I absolutely loved it and I’ll be waving this book at folks who are demanding more sexual diversity in their historical romances as an excellent example.
Although the m/m romance does fade to black before the sex scenes, it’s well explored, probably getting about a third of the page time in the book, and I probably enjoyed it more in a lot of ways because of the exploration between class divisions. Isla and Lord Pierce basically have a misunderstanding which is resolved by getting trapped together during a storm, whereas Sydney and his love interest Lucas are from very different social spheres, Lucas being a farmer.
I kind of want to give this five stars because of the gay representation, but I really can’t because as the starter for a new series, it doesn’t stand well enough alone. With four major protagonists, three of whom have appeared in previous books, nobody really got introduced well enough to new readers and everyone just came across as too nice for words; there wasn’t really any character conflict or growth. Four stars because I enjoyed the read, but if you haven’t read the previous series, you might not enjoy this as much.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley.