Perhaps it was because I enjoyed The Scottish Witch so much, but everything about Lyon’s Bride felt very… low impact. The whole time I read it, I couldn’t decide if I wished I had read this first (so that I wouldn’t have thought it lacklustre in comparison) or if I was glad I had read it second, because I may have DNF’d it in favour of something that grabbed me more. Also, Harry makes a very poor showing in this book, and I don’t think I would have been eager to read his Hero book if this had been his introduction for me.
Thea once married for love, only to be disappointed. Her husband left her with two sons, the only lasting joy she had from their marriage. Thanks to her skill and success as a matchmaker, she has some level of acceptability that also pays for her family’s lifestyle, meagre as it is. Even though it has been a very long time, she remembers her childhood friend Neal with strong affection. However, when he enlists her services as a matchmaker and refuses to make any request but, “Someone I will not like,” she is furious that he would insult her with such a request.
Thinking that it can only be a joke, she refuses and takes her leave. Unfortunately, upon her return home, she finds that her sons were abandoned by their temporary caretaker–who also stole every penny of their savings. Neal, having followed her rather than leave their meeting as it was, arrives as despair sets in, and charms both Thea and her sons.
The curse and Thea’s scepticism are the big barriers on their relationship, as well as Neal’s siblings freaking out on him about the curse. That’s related to the curse, but they are both adults and have full faculty over their behaviour. … well, excepting Harry in those instances when he is too high or too drunk.
Although Harry is not a major character in this book, his characterisation undergoes a rapid change between books that can only be attributed to rehab. He drops a lot of the childish whinging as well as some venom from one book to the next, and the reason is neither strong enough nor long enough. He does get a bit of character development before that, but it’s largely due to Thea’s sons, who are themselves barely mentioned in the second book so I don’t know what is even.
I had a few issues with the pacing. The beginning is like a novella, in that the characters are introduced with most of the falling love already having happened (they had started to fall for each other in their mutual youth) and the fact that Thea is a practical woman who I do not believe would deny her children an alliance with a wealthy man who could not only take very good care of them, but get them into Eton as well. There isn’t a lot to keep them apart other than the curse, and Neal is a pretty easy-going guy who is quick to figure out that part of it that impresses upon the victims the importance of love and that the curse is always worth it.
The middle is like a weekend murder mystery. Not because there is actually a murder, but because there is a house party that carries with it a certain amount of intrigue and uncertainty. A lot of the guests want most of the others out of the way. I had Clue flashbacks. It’s hilarious, although I do wish it had been drawn out more. Because there is not enough substance to that part of the book, it comes out really cartoony. I also wish that the party had ended differently. Events sort of avalanched so fast that I said, “Whosh…” while reading the love scene.
It also made it hard for me to keep respecting either of the characters. Basically, one of the guests plans to go scantily clad into Neal’s room, while her father waits to burst in on them. The compromised “couple” would then have to marry. This plan is rather vicious, but I can’t decide if it’s goofy or not. Thea gets wind of it and goes to thwart the plan. In a way, she utterly fails to do so. She chases the girl out before anything can happen, but then she gets caught in a compromising position with Neal and she totally forgets that the father is supposed to be waiting in the wings to complete the plan. So of course Neal proposes. Oy. All because she didn’t flipping get dressed before going to foil this plan.
After that, the ending is kind of tedious. Maybe it really does dragon on, but it is partially my fault for already knowing how it ends. Even so. The curse is a major factor in how Neal behaves, and the fact that Thea refuses to believe in it makes things harder on both of them.
This book is pretty lukewarm. Yet another “we used to know each other but then we separated because reasons and now we’re forced to be around each other again” romance. I was excited about the idea of Thea being hired as a matchmaker to find Neal a wife he wouldn’t like. She’s a single mother and they contrast very well. He’s rather underdeveloped as a character due to cutting himself off from other people, while Thea is much more social and vibrant, at the very least because of having a far less dysfunctional family (hateful brother notwithstanding). But then everything pretty much took a timid backseat to the Previous Relationship style of romance.
Small bit of potato-esque rage in at the end that is also kind of a spoiler: Thea is pregnant and trying to hide it from Neal. Her younger son spills the beans by commenting on her morning sickness. I’ve never heard a child say something so verbose and delicate as “she doesn’t feel good in her tummy, but then she is all right.” Nor is morning sickness necessarily every morning or only in the morning. I had it twenty-four hours a day for about two weeks and then never after that. It takes about two minutes of searching on Google to not make mistakes like that.
It’s a solid story with good characters, but suffers from uneven pacing and in my case, just pales next to the other one I read first. (oops?)