Wednesday, July 20, 2022

TBR Challenge: Shana Galen - No Man's Bride

Catherine Fullbright has vowed never to marry. Growing up with a disreputable father, she witnessed male behavior at its very worst. Unfortunately her ambitious parent refuses to marry off Catie's pretty, pliable younger sister until the elder is wed and his underhanded scheming comes to a head when Catie finds herself standing at the altar with her sister's fiance.
To achieve his ambitions, Quint Childers, Lord Valentine, needs a wife, some charming, gracious lovely to play the perfect hostess... certainly not a brash, stubborn hellion like Catherine Fullbright. Why, then, is he mesmerized by the fiery chit? And when an old man's deception puts Catie in Quint's bed, why does the prospect of their union excite the handsome lord so? Winning the remarkable lady's love will be a trial - she doesn't even like him! Still, is that a glint of desire he sees flashing in those exquisite hazel eyes?

Comment: Today is Wednesday and it's time for the TBR Challenge post.
The theme for this month is vintage and my personal interpretation went along the lines of something "that is not new, especially when it is a good example of a style from the past" as seen in the online Cambridge Dictionary. I thought of the word as an adjective, and linked to something published years ago. I know sixteen years is not enough to make something classic but added to a likely classic trope, I just didn't think more and picked this historical by Shana Galen.

This book starts with a little 10 year old girl being bullied and mistreated by her father and, as she is rescued by her cousins, they make a pact in which they decide to never marry and to follow their own adventures. Ten years later, Catie is put to the test when her father demands she marries before her arrogant younger sister, already betrothed. In hopes to avoid this, Catie tries, with the help of her cousins, to make her sister's fiance see how such an horrible person Elizabeth is. If they don't marry, she won't need too either, but her plan backfires when her father decides to marry her instead to Elizabeth's fiance, since she is the oldest.
Will Catie and her now husband lord Valentine be able to go past the sudden marriage and become true partners?

This is the first book I try by this author. I've had it in the pile for years but somehow, along with other titles, it has been left behind. I had nothing to expect, but I did create an idea about it, since it was historical, published in the 00's and by Avon, whose editions made me think of certain stories (lighter, less dramatic), especially due to the font they used. I know this shouldn't matter, but it is quite a distracting font for me, always making me imagine less serious work.

Nevertheless, at first, I was enjoying this story quite well because the main character was being mistreated and I tend to like when someone grows to be a good person despite that, proving it's all in the personality and moral code. I think I've started to be rather disappointed when it seemed that the tone of this story would be more towards the easy comedy... I got that impression from Catie's personality, she simply seemed childish to me. I suppose this can be accepted, she was only 20 and disinclined to marry but... this is also an historical and I would assume some formality would happen too.

Catherine - Catie - is obviously a rebel but while I could sheer for her dreams of just sailing as a pirate with her cousins, I could also see how she would be a good heroine, destined to fall in love. The plot was weird but I still bought this notion of marrying Catie to Quint, lord Valentine, instead of her younger sister. The method, however...
Anyway, they were stuck in a complicated situation but as always, the fun part would be to see them discover they liked each other after all (they did), that they could be partners (at some point they become that) and that they could trust each other (I suppose this does happen...) but I'm afraid the execution of these things and the dynamics between Quint and Catie were a little weak.

Catie is just too childish. Her behavior and notions can be innocent and genuine, but I just couldn't see that someone like Quint, whom we get to see is responsible and experienced in all aspects of life, would feel more than physical attraction for her, their personalities simply don't mesh and although the author did try to make this happen, I was not convinced. The romance felt forced at times and the sudden plot dramas just didn't help, I felt they didn't have time to truly be a couple.

I guess I can easily portray this as vintage in my head, in the sense that we have opposite protagonists and the man is older and wiser and can't help be a role model for the heroine, and likes her quirkiness instead of seeing her as a child. This is even more obvious since we know he has a political life and would want a wife who could help him. Yes, yes, love and all that, but I feel the relationship wasn't really well done and one element of the couple would always be, realistically, let down.

I think that if some situations had been dealt with in a more serious manner (Catie's abuse at home, how a true marriage works, for instance), we could sympathize with the characters more and wish to see them overcome the problems and the issues. I would say this story is planned and the author certainly imagines many of the scenes quite well, but the action of putting everything together and make it work wasn't as well achieved, in my perspective.

In conclusion, I'd consider this a good example of the style of books in this category, lighter historical romance, not intended to be ironic nor cute, but falling into the chick lit version of historical romance. I feel bad I didn't enjoy it more in the end, but the execution was rushed at times, some situations weren't properly solved or dealt with, the characters needed more complexity in how they were developed... this is readable yes, but will not be memorable for me.
Grade: 5/10


  1. There is a type of historical romance that includes fairly heavy set ups (like the abuse you mentioned), that then fail to deal with it realistically, going to facile solutions that don't hold up to even the slightest scrutiny.

    For me, when reading one of those, it's a win if the author's voice is enough to not have me stopping to dwell on either the abuse or the unseriousness of its treatment by the characters in the story. The problem is, of course, that even in those cases I start thinking about it as soon as I'm done reading, and I get angry.

    Because, yes, escapism, and whatever, but if you are going to write a lighthearted historical romance for escapism, why do you weigh your characters with such unbearable burdens as backstory?

    1. Hi! :)
      Yes, that is one way to put it, which I didn't even consider. it it true the tone and content didn't really match for me.
      I actually did focus mostly on the writing itself, and had that been a little more appealing, I think it's easier to overlook the details we like less... I think this one was an acceptable story, but not memorable for me.

  2. I read this author's Lord and Lady Spies series, and she definitely is more lighthearted. Those books were lightly based on movies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and the like. I think I called it Chik-lik historical, lol.

    1. Hello! Yes, that does seem to be a good description, "chick-lit historical". I had no idea about the movie inspiration but to be fair, I didn't finish that interested to make me feel like investigating :)