The Vengeful Bridegroom
by Kit Donner
I must admit that while reading The Vengeful Bridegroom I was a bit lost for a good portion of the book as to who all the players in the game were, and there were a lot of them. Ms. Donner provides an odd little prologue full of newspaper articles, letters, and diary entries that is, I think, supposed to give readers insight into what awaits them, but instead just served to confuse me. Luckily, enough background was provided in chapter five that things became a little clearer, and I would advise any readers to skip reading the prologue until after they've read that chapter.
The Vengeful Bridegroom is your basic marriage-for-revenge plot, and if the author had focused on that it would have worked much better. The revenge part being that Madelene's brother seduced and abandoned Gabriel's sister, so Gabriel tricks Madelene into marrying him, after which he will then divorce her thereby ruining her. That I could have enjoyed. Instead, the author introduces a cast of thousands (or what seemed like) with no explanation as to their purpose.
We have Gabriel, the only character whose motives I truly understood. He is a flawed hero but a worthy one, and a self-made man who made his money in shipping. We have Madelene, the vain, shallow daughter of a baronet whose pride is so extensive that she could never marry someone in trade. We have her immature, self-involved, older brother Sir Matthew Colgate who, after he ruined Gabriel's sister, told her he was dying so that she wouldn't expect marriage out of him. A man, who after his father's death, gambled away everything that wasn't locked down.
We have an Italian count who has Colgate under his thumb enough that he demands that Colgate steal and deliver not only a dagger to him, but Madelene as well (married or not) to be his mistress. We have a furtive Italian lad named Alec who turns out to be a young woman who is in love with Gabriel. We have a very mysterious housekeeper who shows up out of nowhere and seems to know absolutely everything about everyone, and who was sent to protect Madelene. Although, we never learn who she actually is, who sent her, or how she knows everything. This lack of explanation bugged me the most as she truly was the most interesting character and I wanted to know more about her.
Add in a different intrigue in each chapter, a bunch of red herrings and you can see where my confusion came in. Since this is only Ms. Donner's second book I will cut her some slack for forcing conflict but, a reader can only take so much. While I much prefer my romances to focus on the characters' growth and development, I don't mind having a mystery thrown in here and there. However, I have to complain when those mysteries and intrigues overshadow the romance as was the case in The Vengeful Bridegroom
In the beginning Madelene was pretty vain and extremely shallow, to the point of being annoying. By the end of the book she had grown enough as a character that I was pleased with her. There were some touch and go moments when I really thought Madelene was going to believe her self-involved brother over her husband. Thankfully the author didn't go there. Instead, Madelene is poisoned, nearly drowned, nearly kidnapped - twice - and nearly shot. Everything that could possibly happen to her happened, until I just wanted to scream “ENOUGH ALREADY!”
The ending felt unfinished to me as I still had some questions I wanted answered. I can see potential in Kit Donner's writing and I hope that as she matures as an author the issues I had will sort themselves out, but until then, I cannot recommend The Vengeful Bridegroom.
Reviewed by: Valarie Pelissero
“A good premise but, with too much intrigue and not enough romance.”
September 2010, 352 pages
Madelene Colgate has three days to find a husband - or her family's wealth is forever lost. It's no wonder she plays into the hands of Gabriel Westcott, a devilishly handsome stranger all too happy to make her his wife. Madelene is relieved to be wed, until she discovers Gabriel's true identity: He is her brother's mortal enemy...and he has trapped her in a marriage of revenge!
But once Gabriel is alone with his new bride, he finds that his fantasies of disgracing Madelene and her family are less appealing than other, more sensual ideas. For Madelene is no weak-willed miss, but a beautiful woman who knows what she wants. And what she wants is an annulment...unless Gabriel can convince her that a real marriage - in every sense - would be the greatest prize of all...