You May Kiss the Bride: The Penhallow Dynasty
The first of the Penhallow Regency series varies the traditional Cinderella story by introducing a heroine with a strong rebellious streak. Livia Stuart finds Gabriel Penhallow arrogant and patronizing, and when he insists they marry after they are caught exchanging an unexpected (and confusingly passionate) kiss, she runs away. Without money, however, her options are limited, and after a day of toil as a scullery maid in a nearby inn, that particular plan of escape loses its lustre. When Gabriel easily tracks her down, she decides to make the best of the situation: a marriage of convenience, without affection or even physical intimacy, both (uneasily) agree. That, he insists loftily, is the Penhallow way: duty, not personal feelings, is all-important.
Given their impulsiveness and powerful, shared attraction, this plan is equally implausible, but the bumpy, if at times rambling, road to mutual respect, true love, and happy marriage offers an entertaining journey. The strength of the story, however, is the satirical perspective with which characters are presented, especially members of the gentry. Vacuity, snobbery, thoughtlessness, spitefulness, slavish adherence to convention and superficial appearance: all are neatly skewered with a skill even Jane Austen might appreciate. Definitely recommended to Regency lovers.