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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Susan Carroll makes her fiction debut with a beautiful and intricate love story set against a gothic sensibility. Even though the setting of the book is the mid-18th century, there are enough forbidden keeps and shadowy castles to delight the medievalist as well as the romance reader. THE BRIDE FINDER is a story of the paranormal, and more than one ghost walks the dank corridors of the Castle Leger. Telekinetic ability and telepathy are the modes of operation for Carroll's hero, Anatole St. Leger, who broods over the curse of these terrifying powers that fate has bestowed upon him and his family.
It all really began years before THE BRIDE FINDER opens. The St. Legers are a cultlike family, frightening to those who live in their vicinity. Prospero St. Leger, the patriarch ancestor of the present generation, was actually burned for witchcraft. The St. Legers have their own rituals in life, handed down over the centuries. When the St. Leger men are ready to wed, they send a designated Bride Finder out into the world. Those who marry the woman that the psychic Bride Finder claims is the right one often have productive lives. But those St. Legers who follow their own foolish hearts and marry without the aide of the Bride Finder are doomed. Anatole feels a great melancholy about his fate and family curse. He has foreseen many tragic events for those around him. And when he looks into a crystal and learns that his own fate will be sealed by a woman with hair of flame, he vows to avoid this doom at all cost.
The Bride Finder, who is both a local priest and a distant relation ofAnatole,heads out on the road to find the kind of bride that Anatole has specified. When he returns, Anatole is shocked by how small and unsuited his prospective bride appears.
But this is nothing compared with the shock that Madeline Breton receives when she arrives at Castle Leger. She is from a once well-to-do family that has recently fallen on hard times. Madeline recoils in horror when she sees the brute to whom she has promised herself. Madeline had no dowry and therefore no prospects for marriage; the money that the Bride Finder bestowed upon her in order to lure her into the marriage has already been spent to pay off her parents' debts. When she arrives at the gloomy castle, she hopes against hope that the master of the house is as pleasing as the miniature portrait that the Bride Finder gave her. Instead she finds a hulking monster of a man who seems to care less for her than he does his horses.
Anatole has his own horror. When he rips off Madeline's fashionably powdered wig, he sees that her natural hair is flaming red, just the shade of the woman who spells his doom.
And now, both because she honors her promises and because her parents have already spent the money given in the exchange, Madeline must somehow make the best of this horrific match. The Castle Leger is full of manservants, and so she brings in women from the village to help her dress, cook, clean, and get the great unused library in order. Basically, Madeline's first order of business is to tame the beast of the castle.
While the new couple are learning to handle their differences and terror of each other, another storm is brewing on the horizon. The Bride Finder sees a woman in a cape weeping over the grave of one of the powerful enemies of the St. Leger family, Tyrus Mortmain. Who is this woman, and why would a Mortmain have returned to Castle Leger after her entire family burned to death years before? As the mystery of this woman's identity and intent becomes clear, Anatole and Madeline find that they must learn to trust, love, and find power in each other in order to bring light into the shadows of the castle.
A twist of sorts on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE BRIDE FINDER is a fantastic delight, a beautifully written novel of magical romance and the conquering power of love. Susan Carroll's story of Anatole and Madeline is as star-crossed as any lovers' tale, but humor and a very subdued sensuality elevate this story above the norm. If you love paranormal romance and a well-told tale, THE BRIDE FINDER is a novel you should not miss.
—Jessi Rose Lucas