First Season / Bride to Be

First Season / Bride to Be

3.5 6
by Jane Ashford
     
 

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Two classic Regency romances by beloved bestselling author Jane Ashford celebrate the adventures of a London Season

FIRST SEASON
Widowed Lady Anabel Wyndham was married right out of the schoolroom and has never before experienced the delights of a London Season. She's dazzled by the attention of the fascinating Sir Charles Norbury, a man whose

Overview

Two classic Regency romances by beloved bestselling author Jane Ashford celebrate the adventures of a London Season

FIRST SEASON
Widowed Lady Anabel Wyndham was married right out of the schoolroom and has never before experienced the delights of a London Season. She's dazzled by the attention of the fascinating Sir Charles Norbury, a man whose touch seems to melt her very soul, but a notorious rake. She's drawn to handsome friend-of-the-family Christopher Hanford and the comfort and serenity he offers. But how does one choose between two such charming suitors? Anabel is finding that love is so much more dangerous the second time around.

BRIDE TO BE
Emily Crane is the toast of the ton-and she couldn't find it more tedious. Until she encounters the darkly sensual stranger whose life she once saved and the London Season becomes infinitely more exciting. Recently returned from the wilds of South America, Lord Richard Sheldon has only contempt for tiresome London chits, but he finds himself stunningly intrigued by the dauntless Emily Crane. When the two become embroiled in a budding scandal and are forced into an engagement, they discover a passion more dangerous than any killer...

Praise for The Bride Insists:
"Another perfectly delightful Regency romance...remarkably executed." -Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Ashford captures readers with her keen knowledge of the era and deft writing." -RT Book Reviews, 4 stars
"Fabulous...well-written, great characters." -Fresh Fiction

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781492630944
Publisher:
Sourcebooks
Publication date:
10/06/2015
Pages:
512
Sales rank:
328,024
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

First Season/Bride to be


By Jane Ashford

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 1983 Jane LeCompte
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4926-3095-1



CHAPTER 1

"Well, I don't like it here," said Nicholas Wyndham, looking around the elegantly furnished blue drawing room with a jaundiced eye. There was nothing obviously offensive in the delicately molded white ceiling, the thick Turkey carpet, or the fashionable French tables and sofas, but his brother, Sir William, the elder by a year, seemed to concur. He grimaced sympathetically and shrugged. "We must do something!"

"But, Nicky, what could we possibly do?" William's deep blue eyes widened.

Nicholas sighed. He and his brother looked much alike, resembling their mother in soft brown hair, pale coloring, and fine bone structure. And William was a splendid fellow for a tramp through the woods or a wild gallop, neck or nothing, behind the local hounds. But Nicky often felt that their father's heir lacked some quality that he himself possessed in abundance. "Scores of things!" he retorted, drumming his slender fingers on his knee and considering.

Sir William Wyndham, very conscious of his responsibility as head of the family, sat straighter in the blue velvet armchair and shook his head. "Now, Nicky, don't begin one of your high flights."

His brother snorted. "You've been pleased enough with some of them. What about Mr. Winston?"

William grinned. Mr. Winston, a late and unlamented tutor in the Wyndham household, had left it precipitously. "That was Susan, not you."

"It was my idea to set her on him."

"Yes, but ..."

"Well, I admit that Susan is enough for anyone."

As the brothers pondered this truism, in perfect agreement, the subject of it came hurtling through the double doors that led to the hall, leaving them standing open behind her. "Here you are!" She stood, hands on hips, green eyes smoldering. "I suppose you thought I shouldn't find you here?"

They eyed her warily. Susan Wyndham, the youngest of the family, had inherited a mass of flaming red hair from her paternal forebears and an irresistible temper from sources unknown. Her brothers had long since learned to respect her opinions. "We thought you were busy upstairs," ventured Nick.

"You didn't! How could I be, in this beastly place? I hate it here." Coming farther into the room, she subsided into the armchair opposite William with a flurry of white muslin skirts.

"All of us do," agreed William, putting his chin in his hand.

"Well, we should go back home, then," replied his sister. "Let us speak to Mama at once." She made as if to rise.

William laughed shortly, and Nicholas said, "Mama is out. And, besides, she likes it. I heard her say so."

Susan's auburn brows came together, and her full lower lip began to protrude. Both brothers braced themselves. But before she could gather voice for an initial blast, there was a soft sound from the doorway and then a scraping noise from behind the sofa where Nicholas sat. "Daisy?" wondered Susan.

"Oh no." William sprang up and shut the doors. "Is he scratching the table? Nicky, look and see."

Reluctantly, Nicholas peered over the sofa back, directly into the yellow eyes of an immense ginger tomcat, who had sunk his front claws into the scrolled leg of a Louis Seize table. Holding the boy's gaze, the cat bent slowly forward and fastened his teeth on the same object. Nicholas shuddered and drew back. "Yes."

"Get him!" William ran around the sofa.

"Daisy!" shrieked Susan, leaping to the rescue. The cat streaked under the couch, coming out directly under Nicky's feet and causing him to jerk them up convulsively.

"Come on," shouted William. "We'll corner him."

His brother swallowed and rose, squaring his shoulders. "I'm coming." He moved forward like a soldier going into battle.

"No," cried Susan. She ran over and scooped the animal into her arms, his oversized body drooping on all sides. "Leave her alone!"

William sighed again. "Him, Susan. I keep telling you. I can't understand why you had to drag that horrid creature off the streets. You might have had a kitten of your own if you'd asked, and not some wretched alley cat."

"She was starving," replied Susan with finality, caressing Daisy's flat head. The cat purred but continued to stare at the Wyndham brothers with malicious glee.

William gazed at the gigantic animal skeptically, but merely shrugged. Nicholas shuddered again and turned away.

"Daisy can help us," added Susan, lugging him back to the armchair and settling him across her lap.

"Help us what?" asked William.

"Get home again." Susan's dimples showed. "Cook doesn't like her."

"None of the servants do," agreed Nick, in a tone that suggested he was wholeheartedly of their opinion.

"Yes." Susan smiled again.

"That don't signify." William was superior. "They'll simply get rid of the cat. They wouldn't ..."

His sister's green eyes flashed, and she drew herself up. "I should like to see them try!"

"Yes, but, Susan —"

"This isn't getting us anywhere," interrupted Nick. "We have to decide what we're going to do. I can't bear it much longer." He glanced at Daisy.

"Nor I," agreed Susan. "London is the dreariest place I've ever been."

"Well, I can't see what we ..." began William, but at that moment the drawing-room doors opened again to reveal two ladies in modish evening dress.

"Whatever am I to do with her, Anabel?" the elder was saying. "She ..." They saw the Wyndhams.

"What are you doing downstairs at this hour?" exclaimed the other woman. "Why aren't you getting into bed?"

"We were just talking, Mama," replied Sir William Wyndham, full of the maturity of his ten years. "I was about to take the children up."

His brother's lip curled.

"I don't want to go to bed," protested Susan, six. "Nor does Daisy." She held up the cat's head so that her mother and grandmother could see it over the chair arm. "She's not the least sleepy."

Both women looked pained. "I daresay not," answered Lady Anabel Wyndham. "But you must go up." She sent a footman in the hall to fetch Nurse, who arrived a few moments later in a confusion of starched white and protests that she had been searching for the children throughout the upper floors. "That is no doubt why they came down here," responded their mother, shepherding the three toward the stairs.

"Will you come up and say good night?" begged nine-year-old Nicholas.

"In a little while, if you get into bed."

Susan grimaced, but they went.

"Really, Anabel," said Lady Sybil Goring when they had the drawing room to themselves. "Shouldn't the boys be in school? They aren't a very good influence on Susan, apparently."

Anabel laughed. "I assure you it is quite the other way about, Mother. But you're right, they should go. I have been trying to bring myself to send them for a year." She shook her head.

"I'm sure they've been a great comfort. But, Anabel, it has been three years since Ralph died."

"I know." She looked down again and sighed. "It doesn't seem so long."

Her mother watched her with pity and some impatience. She had married Anabel off very young to a most eligible baronet, and she had thought her well and happily settled until the untimely death of Sir Ralph Wyndham three years before. At that tragedy, she had understood and respected her daughter's grief, allowing her every indulgence in her power and taking care not to manage her life, as she had been greatly tempted to do. Lady Goring's powerful common sense quite often led her to intervene in her friends' and family's decisions. But now she thought it was time Anabel shook off her despondence and began again. She was, after all, not yet thirty, and she did not look the least like the mother of three growing children. Indeed, with her soft brown ringlets, large, expressive blue eyes, and delicately made frame, Anabel could have passed for a girl of twenty. Only her mother knew that her fragility was deceptive: Anabel might look as if a strong wind would carry her away, but she had great reserves of strength.

Accordingly, Sybil had swept her daughter up to London for the season, over her protests, and she was determined that its gaieties should dispel the last clouds of bereavement. Her only concern was the children, whom Anabel had insisted upon bringing. They seemed out of spirits in town, and their unhappiness was the one thing that might spur Anabel to open rebellion. "I was wrong to let your father convince me to marry you without a come-out," she murmured. She did not realize that she had spoken aloud until Anabel looked up, smiled, and shook her head.

"I didn't mind, Mama."

"That is because you knew no better. You had no taste of town life, and you still have not. You don't know what you missed."

"I know what I gained." Anabel smiled reminiscently.

Her mother ignored her. "But we shall make up for that now. You shall go to all the balls and entertainments just as if it were your debut, only you will enjoy them a great deal more because you have the freedom of a married woman." As soon as she said this, she wished she hadn't, but Anabel merely shook her head again.

"I am too old for a debut."

"Wait until you have gone about a bit before you decide."

"This ball tonight ..."

"Oh, it is not a ball. A trial before the season really begins, nothing more. You must not go by it."

"Mama." Anabel smiled. "Content yourself with managing Georgina. I shall stay in the background."

"Nonsense," snapped Lady Goring, but this brought back her earlier grievance. "Anabel, what am I to do about Georgina? I'm sure when I told your uncle that I would bring her out I was happy to help. He hasn't been up from the country since Clara died, fifteen years ago. But now that I have seen her ..." She made a helpless gesture.

"What precisely is wrong with her?" asked Anabel, who had not yet met her much younger cousin. "She arrived this afternoon?"

"While you were shopping."

"Is she coming down to dinner?"

"I suppose so. I mean, I should count on it." She laughed bitterly.

"Mama ..."

A footman opened the double doors to admit a girl of seventeen or eighteen to the drawing room, and Anabel saw at once what her mother had meant. Georgina Goring possessed an altogether too ample abundance of flesh. Her frame went well beyond youthful plumpness, and as if to call attention to the unfortunate flaw in her appearance, she entered eating a large cream-filled chocolate.

"Georgina, dear," murmured Lady Goring in a faint voice.

"Hullo," replied Georgina around the candy. "Is it dinnertime?"

Anabel bit her lower lip.

"Nearly, dear. This is your cousin Anabel. My daughter, you know."

"Hullo," said Georgina again. "Are you coming out this season too?"

Her smile broadened. "In a manner of speaking."

Georgina nodded. "You will do better than I. It is all so stupid. I don't see why I need bother." She took a twist of silver paper from the pocket of her pink muslin gown, extracted another chocolate, and ate it.

Lady Goring made a stifled noise. "You won't care for any dinner, will you, Georgina, if you keep eating sweets."

"Oh, yes, I shall."

Anabel looked from one to the other. Perhaps this visit to town would be more amusing than she had expected. When her mother had first insisted that she come to London, she had refused. For three years her life had revolved around her children, and before that she had become accustomed to living in the country. She had neighbors to rely on for company and aid, and she knew her family loved the outdoors. But her mother had overborne her objections, holding out the lures of excitement and change. Anabel had been tempted, she knew, and she had also realized that her children needed her less and less with each passing year. The boys should go to school, and Susan was nothing if not independent. She had consented half reluctantly, but now her lively sense of the absurd was aroused by the contest of wills she saw shaping before her, and she felt the first stirrings of gratitude. She had been feeling a bit old and weary lately. Perhaps her mother was right.

She glanced from the older woman to Georgina again. She knew her mother's strength of purpose only too well, but something in Georgina's expression suggested that Lady Goring might have met her match. The girl seemed both stubborn and not particularly concerned with Lady Goring's opinion. Surveying her, Anabel realized that she was not really unattractive. Though undoubtedly fleshy, she had fine pale blond hair and gray eyes with thick dark lashes. Her hands were lovely. Turning, Anabel met her mother's gaze, and her lips twitched. It was compounded of chagrin and a dawning fanatical determination.

"Dinner is served, madam," said the butler from the doorway. Georgina followed him eagerly into the hall.

"You see?" said Lady Goring in a low voice.

"She is a little plump. From the way you were talking, I expected a hunchback at least."

"A little? Anabel!"

"Well, Mama ..."

"You may think it a good joke, but I have promised to bring the girl out and find her a husband, if possible, of course. Her fortune is only moderate; I had hoped she would be pretty. If only the current fashions were more flattering to ... but these waists, and no lacing at all." She shook her head. "Chocolates! How can she?"

Anabel started toward the door. Georgina would be wondering what had become of them.

Her mother's chin came up as she turned to follow. "I have two weeks before the season officially begins," she finished. "I'm sure a great deal can be accomplished in that time. She must come with us tonight, but it is a mere hop. Hardly anyone will be there."

"Perhaps we needn't go, then," replied Anabel mischievously as they walked down the corridor.

"Anabel! Don't you begin now, or I shall certainly go distracted."

"You, Mama?"

"Indeed I shall. If anyone had told me that I should sponsor the first seasons of a thirty- year-old woman and an absolutely ... massive schoolgirl, I should unhesitatingly have pronounced them mad."

Anabel began to laugh. "Not quite thirty, Mama."

"How can you be so unfeeling?" Lady Goring met her daughter's dancing eyes and started to smile. Linking arms with her, she strode into the dining room, where Georgina was already seated and looking impatient. "Amuse yourself while you may," she concluded. "I shall triumph in the end — wait and see."

CHAPTER 2

It was fortunate, thought Anabel as the three of them descended from the carriage at the front door of the Rivingtons' festively lit town house, that this ball was not one of the great events of the season. Neither Georgina nor Lady Goring was in the best of tempers after wrangling throughout dinner over what the girl should or should not eat. Indeed, Anabel herself had started to feel the strain of the contest of wills before she thought to remind her mother of the time. Georgina had not spoken once during the short journey, and Lady Goring's comments, though general, had retained an acerbic tone. Anabel was very glad to give her wrap to a footman and climb the stairs to greet her hostess. She would avoid her family until the entertainment put them in better frame, she decided.

The ballroom was more crowded than she had expected, and the hum of talk and glitter of evening dress abruptly reminded Anabel that she loved parties. She had scarcely attended one since her husband died, at first because she was in mourning and then because she had somehow gotten out of the habit. Now she felt a rising excitement. London parties must be quite different from the dinners and small assemblies of the country. She had told her mother that she hadn't minded missing her long-ago debut, but she remembered now that this wasn't entirely true. She had pined a little for the balls and routs and Venetian breakfasts until she became so contented with Ralph and the children.

"Lady Wyndham," said a voice behind her. "I didn't know you were in town."

Anabel turned and greeted a woman she had met some time ago at a house party. "Mrs. Brandon, how pleasant to see you again." She would have an easier time now than she would have had at eighteen, she realized. There were one or two familiar faces in the room.

When they had exchanged commonplace news, Mrs. Brandon added, "You must come and meet my daughter. It is her first appearance in society, and she is naturally a bit uneasy. She will be so happy to see an acquaintance."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from First Season/Bride to be by Jane Ashford. Copyright © 1983 Jane LeCompte. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. Her historical and contemporary romances have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, and Spain as well as the United States. Born in Ohio, she currently lives in the Boston area.

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First Season / Bride to Be 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
AmyWeidenaar More than 1 year ago
First Season had a nice mystery that ran throughout the story. I enjoyed Richard's quest to discover who he had become and how that person fit into the life he had once known. I really enjoyed how Emily remained true to herself throughout the story. It was full of twists and turns. All of the characters were well developed and made incredible foils for one another. You could easily see how they influenced Emily and Richard and who they became. Bride to Be was the story of Christopher and Anabel. I found it very enjoyable that it opened with the children without the reader realizing it at first. Their character's were well-developed and stood on their own as important to the story and it's development. The cat was a delightful character and skillfully used. Georgina was a beautiful reminder of what it is to be at the tender age where you are becoming an adult but still within the grasp of childhood and her development left me cheering for her and hoping she gets a story of her own. The villain's motivations and general outlook were compassionately conveyed. I had mixed feelings about Anabel but overall enjoyed her journey. She was truly a mother and adult woman who found herself for the first time and it's nice to be reminded that everyone matures differently according to their life experiences. Christopher had me wanting to shake him while he found his voice but when he did, I let out a cheer. I definitely recommend these two very different but equally wonderful stories.
Pure_Jonel More than 1 year ago
Ashford takes readers back in time with these two regency romances. I enjoyed how her descriptions bring the world to life without overpowering the plot. At the same time, the stories themselves are intriguing. That said, I found that BRIDE TO BE held my attention much more than FIRST SEASON did. The stories were definitely in contrast with one another. Ashford brings the stereotypes of the time to life through her characters. Heroines who are extremely passive meet heroes who need to rule and save the day. Each character’s natural personality shone through. I enjoyed how I loved some and was annoyed to no end by others. The contrast was fantastic. It also meant that there were some characters that I simply couldn’t connect with on any level. Together this duology made for an intriguing read. Ashford easily takes readers back to the Regency era for some intriguing tales. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
SummerSnowFalls More than 1 year ago
FIRST SEASON Lady Anabel Wyndham married straight out of the schoolroom in a match arranged by her parents. She’s never been to London, never had a come out, but her husband died and she’s decided it’s time to take the children to the glittering streets of Town. And, lucky for her, the family’s good friend Christopher Hanford is recently arrived too. This is a variation on an insta-love romance – Anabel and Christopher have been friends for years, but while Christopher has always held deep affection for Anabel, she has only ever seen Christopher as a friend. Until one moment (no spoilers) suddenly makes her realize she is actually in love with him. For some people, the insta-love stories are sweet, but I do not care for them. I don’t find insta-love realistic or compelling and frankly it didn’t make much sense within the narrative. Moreover, Anabel was flat and almost spineless – she ignores her “beloved” children unless the moment suits her and allows herself to be kidnapped despite many opportunities for escape. Christopher was a little better, though one must seriously question his sanity for pining after Anabel for so long without any hint his feelings were reciprocated. I was far more interested in the story of Anabel’s cousin, Georgina, and would like to see more from this character instead. BRIDE TO BE Emily Crane has had a most unusual and unconventional upbringing. The child of outcast, eccentric aristocrats, Emily is well-traveled, intelligent, and out-spoken. And although she loves her artistic parents a great deal, she cannot help but wonder at the opportunities and stability found in London society. But her life is not without excitement, such as the day she saved a young man from being drowned by some padfoots. But she is beginning to wonder if this life is enough for her. Emily is brought out in London by her socialite Aunt who wastes no time in schooling Emily in all the myriad rules, regulations, and expectations of the bon ton. There, she meets many of the eccentric people she has encountered on her travels – a thief turned dancing master, a playmate turned physic charlatan, and the young man from the riverbank. Or rather, Lord Richard Warrington as he is known in London, long-lost son and notorious rakehell. Emily quickly puts together that someone is trying to kill Richard, but when she shares this news, he believes her mad as a hatter and annoying to boot. Through a series of unlikely events, Emily and Richard find themselves forced into an arranged marriage. It’s up to Emily to convince Richard someone is indeed out to kill him, or she won’t have a groom on her wedding day! This novel was much more interesting than the other in this duplo-book, though still pretty far-fetched and predictable. I probably would think less harshly of it if I had read this one first or on its own. The overall rating of this book was significantly affected by FIRST SEASON. Ultimately, if you enjoy insta-love novels, then borrow this book from your local library or a friend. Otherwise, skip it. Originally posted at Plot Twist Reviews [dot] Com I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
Whenever I read a book that consists of more than one story, I always find them hard to review. It is so hard to not spoil the story for others. I'll do my best though. Here goes. First Season had all the makings a good story. The elusive second chance at love. Two handsome suitors and the mystique of the illustrious ball. It had a lot to live up to. For me it failed. I did not find the characters all that interesting and the story just wasn't very good. Bride to Be is a suspenseful look at romance. A surprising reunion between two former acquaintances takes them in a direction that was never expected. This read is a more gothic regency. In my opinion the mysterious element is what gives it sex appeal and character. The character development is much stronger with Emily and Richard and the story is more interesting. The beauty viewpoint is that everyone sees thing differently. So although this read was not for me, it may be perfect for some one else. I received an ARC of this 2 in 1 in exchange for an honest review.
GypsyL More than 1 year ago
This edition of combines two full length novels from Jane Ashford in one. Though both of these books are historical romance, they are very different examples of the genre. First Season is a story in the style of Georgette Heyer; the story focuses on the character development of the female heroine and historically accurate conversations and conflicts. The romance is 'warm' and there are no erotic scenes. Bride to Be is a more "contemporary' style of novel, and the characters are unconventional for their time period and there is a mystery included, as well as erotic scenes. It was the first time I've read an edition with two such different styles of novels juxtaposed and I enjoyed the contrasts very much. In First Season Lady Anabel has the life changing challenge of making her own choices about her life, for the first time ever, at the age 30. Having gone from her parents making the decisions as a child, to married life with her husband making the decisions, to widowhood where she relied on neighbor Christopher Hanford to advise her, she has never had to make major decisions about her life. But when her mother invites her to come to London to enjoy the season and she attracts the attention of Sir Charles Norbury, a rake and a pink of the ton who is completely unlike any man she has ever met, Anabel is suddenly the captain of her own fate. And she has no idea what to do. To complicate things further, her closest friend and adviser Christopher Hanford has decided to come to town as well but he is acting like a stranger, and her children hate being in London and want nothing more than to go home. I haven't read this style of romance in years, and so it took me a while to get into the rhythm of narrative but once I did the story was engaging and the characters were compelling. Anabel as a character is a true portrayal of a women of her time. And I felt a lot of empathy for her. She has no idea how to make decisions alone, and the novel really explores her psyche as she navigates being in charge of her life for the time time. I remember that feeling in my own life when I was in college, suddenly I had so much freedom. And it was terrifying. Anabel, realistically, makes mistakes and has to make tough decisions and face harsh consequences in order to correct them. I was very invested in her HEA as a result and when the book ended I felt very satisfied. That said, the book was not perfect, and the secondary storyline of Anabel's cousin a plump girl who is shamed and pressured into practically starving herself in order to conform to societal mores regarding beauty, in particular, was needling to my modern sensibilities. But it was, unfortunately, probably historically accurate. And, I would have appreciated some character development from Christopher. But overall, those are minor quibbles and for its style, the novel is a strong one. I would rate it 3.5-4 stars. As mentioned, Bride to Be is a more contemporary style of novel, and I enjoyed it heartily. I reminded me a bit of my favorite book by Jane Ashford, The Marriage Bargain. Emily Crane, our heroine, has had an unconventional upbringing that has forged her into an independent and capable woman. But it has also left her for a longing for the stability and comfort of a more conventional life, and so she goes to London for the season to secure that life for herself. Unfortunately, once the novelty of a London season has worn off, boredom sets in and the restrictions of life as a debutan
MoniqueD More than 1 year ago
FIRST SEASON / BRIDE TO BE is in fact two older book books, and there is a 16-year difference between the two, FIRST SEASON being the oldest. After a surprisingly happy marriage arranged by her family, Lady Anabel Wyndham finds herself a widow with 3 children. After 3 years, her family decides it’s about time she finally had her first Season, which she never even had, hence the title. At the first ball she attends, which is in fact a sort of rehearsal for the real thing, she makes the acquaintance of Sir Charles Norbury, a known rake, who quite fascinates her, while the man who is secretly in love with her, a Wyndham family friend, Christopher Hanford watches, forlorn. But when Charles proposes, is it too late? FIRST SEASON is a lovely Regency romance, somewhat predictable, but very well written, and a quick read. I loved how Ms. Ashford captures the visuals on the page; her writing is very descriptive and vivid. However, I liked BRIDE TO BE a lot more; it’s all a matter of preference, isn’t it? The lovely Miss Emily Crane pies a man in trouble: it seems some villains want to drown him, so Emily calls her trusted dogs and rescues the poor sod: Richard Sheldon. Richard just didn’t mention that he was Baron Warrington! It turns out someone wants to harm Richard. Richard and Emily strike up a friendship of some sort as they try to discover who wants to harm Richard. BRIDE TO BE is a lot of fun! It’s a romance but also a fast-paced mystery, with twists and turns of all sorts, as well as featuring colourful, engaging and complex characters. Emily’s parents are fabulous eccentrics, the romance is somewhat unconventional, and Ms. Ashford really succeeds at showing both Emily and Richard’s growth, individually as well as a couple. I thought the romance in BRIDE TO BE was believable in view of the obvious chemistry between the leads, and I loved the nifty little mystery! Great story! I give 3 ½ stars actually: 3 for FIRST SEASON and 4 for BRIDE TO BE. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.